FORT BRAGG, N.C. - As evidence of the close relationship between the Fayetteville community and Fort Bragg, a local pilot volunteered to fly a Fort Bragg wounded warrior Aug. 17, from Grannis Field in Fayetteville to her niece's wedding in Enid, Okla., as part of the Veterans Airlift Command.

"It is amazing that the Veterans Airlift Command would do this for me," said Maj. Yvonne Heib, an Army nurse, who was injured on Jan. 18, while deployed near Bali MalGraff, Afghanistan. Heib was flown to her niece's wedding by Andre P. Bohy, the president of the Fayetteville-based consumer finance company Omni Financial.

The VAC is comprised of members of the aviation community, who donate time, fuel and use of private aircraft to support veterans in need, Heib said. "It's a nice thing to do for veterans - a
personal touch."

Raymond L. "Ray-Bray" Bray, the firm's general manager, said he put together the trip by donating the fuel in Bohy. He also agreed to pilot the flight.

Bray said when he learned about VAC he wanted to participate for three reasons, first to help out veterans, second to raise awareness of the group and finally to pay back servicemembers, who have been the company's main customer base.

"The focus of the company is to take care of Soldiers," said Bray, a former Marine who retired as a master gunnery sergeant after a 28-year career.

"Omni Financial was started by our founder Fred Nives, while he was still in the Army during World War II because he couldn't get a car loan and he didn't want other Soldiers to go through what he went through," he said.

Nives, now retired, was himself a private pilot and rode shotgun with Bohy during the trip.
Although she is home now, Heib said her thoughts are now in Iraq, where her son, Ryan, is a private deployed at Contingency Operating Base Kalsu, in Karbala province.

Heib said she was then the officer-in-chief of the operating room section for the 274th Forward Surgical Team at Forward Operating Base Todd during the a mortar attack. It was two days before her redeployment back to the States.

"I was injured by shrapnel to both my legs, my arms and chest," Heib said.

Since her transfer to the Warrior Transition Battalion, Heib said she has begun physical therapy and received treatment for traumatic brain injury. "Because of nerve damage, I lost rotation in my right arm and I had to teach myself to write left-handed." Interestingly enough, she said her handwriting is better as a lefty.

Bohy said the flight would take about seven hours with a food and fuel stop three-and-a-half hours in Clarksville, Tenn., before continuing on to Oklahoma.

A private plane pilot since 2005, Bohy has made three previous flights as a member of the VAC and plans to volunteer for one mission every quarter, he said.

On the trip, the nurse said she took with her a wooden cane made personally for her by Fayetteville artist Robbie Gibson of North Carolina Carvers.

In addition to carving an eagle's head at the handle, she said Gibson painted the walking stick with her combat decorations, including her Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Iraqi and Afghanistan campaign medals.

When she returns, Heib, who lives with her husband Erik in Woodlake, N.C., said she will resume her physical therapy.

The 15-year veteran said: "My goal is to return to duty and finish my career."