Joy came to the Sangiovanni family in Cape Coral Tuesday. Their career U.S. Army daughter came home from overseas for a one-week leave.
After 72 hours of travel, including an extra 12 hours due to diversion for a medical emergency on board the military flight from Germany to Baltimore, Major Yolanda Sangiovanni landed at Southwest Florida International Airport at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday. She got a hero's welcome from family members, the Honor Guard and Freedom Riders groups there to greet her.
"We spent hours on the plane on the tarmac in Halifax (Nova Scotia) when we were diverted," said Sangiovanni. "It was so humbling to have the Honor Guard there to greet me and all my family when I came in today. It was just amazing. I didn't expect that because of the delay, but it was a warm welcome and very humbling."
Major Yolanda Sangiovanni responds to questions from TV reporters upon arriving at Southwest Florida International Airport Tuesday morning.
By CYNTHIA WILLIAMS
After arriving, all she wanted to do was to make up for lost time with her three daughters, ages 18, 14 and 12, and family.
"It's great to be stateside again," she said. "It's been three years since I've been home. I had a little R&R in January, but I was in Kuwait at the time. It's great to be with my three girls again."
Sangiovanni has been a resident of Cape Coral for 40 years. She enlisted in the Army here. She has spent the past 22 years in the military, starting as a regular soldier and promoted to Sergeant First Class. Upon her 10-year re-enlistment, she went to Officer Candidate School where she graduated a Second Lieutenant. She has risen through the ranks since, becoming a Major last October.
"I never thought I would stay in the Army as long as I have or do the things I've done when I enlisted here in Cape Coral," Sangiovanni said. "This is home for me, though I'm originally from New York. It's been rewarding and a blessing being in the service.
"What I like about the Army is the camaraderie with the other soldiers," she continued. "We depend on each other. The relationships you build with other soldiers, teaching them. I feel blessed."
During her short stay, Sangiovanni will spend time with her kids, sister, friends and parents, and "go to the beaches" because the time will go by fast.
"I'm looking forward to leaving for Kansas next week and settling in Fort Leavenworth for my next duty station," she said. "My girls will go with me there. I will get another year of training at the prestigious war college there and become an executive officer. I have three years left to make it 25 years in the Army. Yes, I'm thinking of retiring after that to give my girls some roots and stability."
Heading to the airport Monday night, Sangiovanni's father, Ralph, got a phone call from his other daughter, Stephanie, with news of the flight's delay.
"We were all very disappointed," Ralph said. "It's absolutely awesome to have her home with the entire family, though. We enjoy eating together, reminiscing and telling stories.
"The Honor Guard and Freedom Riders did not get the word on the flight delay Monday night, but some of them came back today. I don't know who they were, but I thank them for welcoming home all of the many soldiers who have been deployed and thank all of Southwest Florida for the support."
With Major Sangiovanni being stationed in Kansas, it will be much easier on the family.
"We will get to go visit once in a while now," Ralph said. "Just drive up to Kansas and drop in on her. It's hard to let the girls go, but it's good they will be together with their mom."