Central Valley Honor Flight: Special bond formed from loss

WASHINGTON (KFSN) -- Today is the midpoint of the 19th Central Valley Honor Flight, the first flight from the consisting entirely of valley Vietnam veterans.

Action News joined those veterans as they toured our nation's monuments and memorials.

This was not Robert Vannata's first time in Washington DC, but one trip wouldn't be enough to see all his friends.

"They died for us, they died for our country. I may be on that wall if it wasn't for them."

Vannata served in the US Army Airborne and lost over 30 of his brothers in arms while deployed in Vietnam, including his closest friend, Frank Jaworwicz, who died in his arms.

He brings a list of their names, and memories of them, wherever he goes, "I carry them in my wallet, every single one of them."

Day two of the 19th Central Valley Honor Flight brought Vannata, his list, and the other 67 Vietnam veterans to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall, a place that brought heartbreak and healing in DC.

Those who survived gazed at the more than 58,000 who did not make it home, their names forever etched in black granite, allowing veterans the chance to take those names home with them using a paper and pencil.

The vets were joined by their guardians at the wall, most of whom are family or close friends, but Vannata's guardian was a complete stranger to him, Andy Isolano.

"I've heard this trip is really healing for the vets, said Isolano. "Well, I'm looking for some of that myself."

Isolano was a New York firefighter during 9/11 and experienced pain and loss of friends too and he was there, right by Vannata's side as he found his closest friend.

In total, Vannata would etch the names of three of his friends into a paper for him to take back to the Valley, chipping away at that list of over 30.

"I think this is enough for me right now."

Vannata will have another friend to take back home with him too, his guardian, Andy Isolano.
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