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On May 11th, 87 year old Joe Briganti, a retired United States Navy Flight Instructor, finally got his wings and back on a plane.
During WWII, Joe flew SNJ single engine planes for the Navy. He was 18 years old when he enlisted and his last flight was in 1947. “Being up in the air is very quiet and peaceful to me,” he explained, “the only thing you hear is the engine of the plane and if you didn’t hear that you knew you were in trouble. Just talking about flying again puts a smile on my face and reminds me of the good old days in the Navy.”
Joe has talked about how he loved flying and being in the Navy; teaching new pilots about the planes and how to fly in all kinds of situations and weather. Being an instructor also kept him state-side longer and out of the “shooting war”.
His son, Joe Jr., stated that while Joe still had his flight gear, goggles, and log book, he was missing his pilot wings. The Shepherd of the Valley-Boardman staff, with the help of Major Brent Davis and the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, has worked to make Joe’s dream of getting back onto a plane come true.
At 12:00pm on May 11th, Joe’s dream was granted. He and hs son had lunch at the 910th Airlift Wing Community Activity Center and then toured a C-130 aircraft. Members of the Reserve Station presented him with a certificate of service and an honorary set of Air Force wings.
“They are our heritage. The legacy that they have handed down to us we try to honor and continue to the best of our ability and we have to get these guys out here and let the young guys see them and know where our heritage came from,” said Lt. Col. Donald Milliken, squad commander of the 773rd Airlift Squad.
Joe was accompanied by his son and staff from Shepherd of the Valley-Boardman (7148 West Blvd, Boardman)