Sixty-eight veterans made the trip this week to Washington, D.C., for the 14th Central Valley Honor Flight. Only 67 flew back as a group for Wednesday’s big welcome home to Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
But on Saturday, the 14th flight became complete. After being hospitalized in Baltimore for three days while on the trip to see war memorials in the nation’s capital, Army veteran Vincent “Vince” Schiappi was able to fly back Saturday.
“I broke down on the way back (to) the airport and I passed out I think,” said Schiappi, who otherwise was able to take part in all of the trip’s experiences.
Though he missed Wednesday’s larger-scale welcome back, the ratio of supporters may have wound up in his favor. About 50 people were on hand Saturday night.
Schiappi also got a Friday visit from the staff of his congressman, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, that left him with a card and other gifts.
Flashing a bright smile for the cheering crowd, Schiappi walked out of the airport’s arrival area.
Supporters encircled Schiappi, then cleared a path for him to reunite with his wife.
“I’m overwhelmed,” he said as he walked through the crowd and exchanged hugs and handshakes. “I can’t believe this.”