Volunteer pilots put pair of Afghanistan vets together again

Fiorini flies for Pilots N Paws

Fiorini flies for Pilots N Paws

Posted: Dec 02, 2013 5:12 PM ESTUpdated: Dec 02, 2013 6:02 PM EST

By Victoria Hansen
vhansen@abcnews4.com

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — The plane door pops open and nails drag clumsily along the steps. There’s a blanket in the back of the two-seater on this cold, cloudy November morning.

Pilot Ryan Fiorini gets ready to taxi the runway when a wet nose nudges against his hand.

“I think this is the fourth or fifth flight I’ve done for Pilots N Paws,” said Fiorini.

The pilot is of course Fiorini. The paws belong to Inca, a Belgian Shepherd whose jet black muzzle pokes between the seats.

Inca makes her flight from Charleston to North Carolina.

Inca makes her flight from Charleston to North Carolina.

“This specific flight I saw it on the board and it’s out of Charleston so, you know I figured this is perfect.”

Fiorini volunteers his time and expenses for the non-profit, Pilots N Paws. The organization pairs pilots, rescue volunteers and animals in need.

Some 3,000 pilots have signed on since its inception in 2008, as well as more than 10,000 volunteers. Many of the animals are saved from high risk shelters. Others just need a ride home.

Inca already has a home waiting. She just doesn’t know it.

Her journey began 24 hours earlier in Florida. A pilot there volunteered to fly her to Charleston, but he had mechanical problems. So he drove her to Charleston instead.

That’s where Fiorini stepped in.

“We got her on the airplane and she jumped right in, very well behaved,” he said.

The mission now is to get Inca to North Carolina. She already seems very much at home. In fact, she’s eager to jump in the front seat.

“Inca used to sleep and sit on the airplanes at his feet,” said Fiorini. “We think that’s what she wanted to do.”

The “he” in question is Joe Bane, and he’s been waiting to be reunited with Inca for two years. They worked security detail together in Afghanistan. But a back injury sent Bane home.

Inca reunited with Joe.

Inca reunited with Joe.

“It was like leaving my child behind,” said Bane, remembering the day he had to leave her behind in Afghanistan. “When I was injured and walked off base, the first thing I did was walk in the office and say, ‘When she retires I get her.’”

Inca is now retired and on her way to be reunited with Bane.

“In Afghanistan, our job was we flew out every day or so and did convoys. We searched for things for the military. We did patrols to keep bad guys off the base,” he said.

Bane is anxious as Fiorini lands the plane. The door is opened and he calls her name. Inca runs right for him, but she also begins to do something else — she circles around him.

“She’s looking for a threat,” said Bane. “This dog is a protection dog. With the right commands she will apprehend a criminal and bring them to me.”

Inca hardly looks ferocious though as she settles next to Bane who hugs and pets her, whispering her name.

“We worked with everybody from Special Forces to infantry to Marines to Air Force,” said Bane. “They all knew what she could do. But the thing they liked most about her is that they could approach her, pet her, and a little touch of home came back.”

Bane’s wife and kids welcomed Inca into their arms as well. She’s surprising gentle and a bit overwhelmed.

But that plane ride didn’t end on the tarmac. Her next stop is a car ride to Tennessee.

“Inca comes home with me. She is done working. She becomes the queen of my house and I’ll have to find a crate for my wife,” Bane said, joking and obviously relieved to have his war buddy back in his daily life.

Both Bane and his wife Jeannine are grateful to Pilots N Paws and the many volunteers involved.

“I just want to thank everybody that’s helped us put this together. Words can’t describe…,” Jeannine Bane said.

Where words fail, emotions take over. Jeannine Bane began to cry.

If you’d like to learn more about Pilots N Paws, just go to their website: www.pilotsnpaws.org

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10 Responses to “Volunteer pilots put pair of Afghanistan vets together again”

  1. Susan Metzler 06. Dec, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    So nicely done!!!

  2. Pilots N Paws is a WONDERFUL organization. They just flew a rescue to me from New York to West Virginia. Congrats to Joe Bane and his family on being reunited with Inca. A HUGE thank you to pilot Ryan Fiorini for transporting Inca!

  3. Thank you for reuniting this team Pilots N Paws. This mission was such a great accomplishment!!

  4. This is fantastic~~~~

  5. Thank you for making this world a better place! God Bless

  6. What a wonderful, heart warming story! I think this program is fantastic and I really think it’s AMAZING that the pilot; who volunteered to fly Inca from Florida to Charleston, had mechanical problems with his airplane, and instead of backing out (which he could’ve easily done and no one would’ve faulted him because he couldn’t fly) actually DROVE Inca to Charleston instead! All just to fulfil his promise! Of course, in turn, making Inca’s new family whole and complete as the other volunteer pilot, Mr. Fiorini was able to complete the journey! God bless the two volunteers who made it all possible, as well as Miss Inca and her wonderful new family!

  7. Thank you PNP! As usual, you bought me to tears..WELL DONE! God BLESS all of you for all you do for these precious animals and humans. MERRY CHRISTMAS and WELCOME HOME Mr Bane! Thank you for your service to America, and thank you INCA for keeping him safe so he could return to his family!

  8. Way to go, PNP. You guys rock! Thanks for all you do to get furkids to new homes and rescues and to save their lives. Happy Holidays to all of you!

  9. Patti Patterson 18. Dec, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Heroes everyone of them….THANK YOU♡