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Old 10-16-2010, 09:38 PM   #1
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Default Good things do happen in this great country

What an awesome feel-good story!

Iraq veteran Sgt. Scott Wallace needed a ride ... so Manhattan executive flew him for free

BY James Fanelli
Saturday, October 16th 2010, 4:00 AM

Wounded Iraq veteran Sgt. Scott Wallace couldn't scrounge up enough cash to cover an airplane ticket from his base in North Carolina to his best friend's wedding in Pennsylvania last weekend.
But a good Samaritan Manhattan executive who moonlights as a pilot flew the young soldier for free.

Gary Illiano, 53, flew his single-engine propeller plane on Oct. 8 from Westchester County Airport to Fayetteville, N.C., to pick up Wallace.

The pair traveled to Allentown, Pa., where Wallace, 23, was the best man at the wedding last Saturday.

"Normally, I'd drive home, but my truck is on its last legs," said Wallace, 23. "I looked at flights and there was no way I could afford that - not on a government check."

Wallace spent 11 months in Iraq. He was wounded on a patrol in 2007, when a sniper's bullet ripped through his body, shattering his shoulder blade, breaking two ribs and damaging his lungs.
He earned a purple heart and another medal for carrying a wounded comrade out of combat while injured himself.

Illiano and Wallace were connected through the nonprofit group Veterans Airlift Command, which matches volunteer pilots with wounded soldiers in need of a lift.

Since its start in 2006, the Minnesota-based group has given 2,736 free flights to wounded veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. It has about 1,500 pilots - 50 from New York State, including 20 from the city.

A partner at accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP, Illiano signed up for the group earlier this year. "It sounded like a good mission," said Illiano, who got his pilot license 11 days after 9/11.

Wallace, who enlisted with the Army's 82nd Airborne Infantry Division when he was 17, was Illiano's first passenger through the program.

"I saw my childhood best friend marry the woman he loves," said a grateful Wallace. I was really glad I was there. If I had missed it, I would have regretted it."

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/....html#ixzz12Ze Smp1j

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