BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Whenever friends hear the name Matthew Chialastri, they say many things come to mind.
"He was just a fantastic young man. Fantastic student. Great sense of humor," said Sgt. Jill Pearl, Chialastri's ROTC commander at Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge.
Chialastri was the class of 2013 valedictorian at Woodlawn. He later joined the United States Navy.
On Wednesday, November 22, he was one of three sailors lost at sea after an aircraft crashed near the Japanese peninsula. Search efforts ended the following Friday.
Officials say the cause of the crash is still under investigation.
"It was [Saturday] morning when I saw that the identity was a Baton Rouge person, so immediately I looked to read about that not even thinking for a second that it would someone that I knew, especially Matthew," Pearl said.
Sgt. Pearl praised Chilastri's talent and skill, saying he would have likely taken on a big leadership role as the Battalion Commander of the program, had he not quit his sophomore year to focus on school.
That's when his softer, more humorous side started to show.
"He always had a very very short, military-style haircut, and once he got out of the program, he grew his hair out, and by the time he graduated, his hair was all the way down past his shoulders, and we would often laugh and joke about that," Pearl said.
The ROTC commander lost touch with Chialastri after his graduation.
Pearl said the sailor rarely used social media, but she kept tabs on him once she found out he decided to serve in the Navy.
Matthew Dispensire was a fellow ROTC student and said Chialastri was a great friend that took the time to help his classmates.
"[In] ninth grade, I had issues with math. He didn't mind stopping, helping me with it," Dispensire said. "Anytime we were in art class together he would give me little tips and pointers on how to make my art better. And he really just was... good."