Marc Scialdo, 31, was one of five soldiers killed on March 11 when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter they were riding in crashed during a training exercise in Khandahar City in Afghanistan. Scialdo will be buried today. His funeral service was held this morning at St. John the Evangelist Church. The procession started around noon. .
The procession then turned left (east) on Vanderbilt Beach Road and continue to Palm Royale Cemetery, 6780 Vanderbilt Beach Road.
The burial service started around 12:55 p.m.
Southwest Florida turned out in force to welcome Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo home.
Residents lined the streets Thursday morning. Some waved American flags, some held homemade signs and some saluted as the fallen Collier County soldier’s casket passed through Naples streets into Bonita Springs.
Scialdo, 31, was one of five soldiers killed on March 11 when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter they were riding in crashed during a training exercise in Khandahar City in Afghanistan. The cause of the crash is being investigated.
Naples residents David and Kelly Linneberg brought their 3-year-old son, Karl, to the Naples Municipal Airport to welcome Scialdo home. They had never met the soldier.
“I am glad to see everyone come out and support him,” said Kelly Linneberg, gesturing to the motorcycles, police cars, fire trucks and other cars that lined the tarmac to be in the procession with the family. “It’s the least we can do as citizens, support those who support us.”
Scialdo’s body arrived at 10:05 a.m. Thursday at the Naples airport on a Kalitta Charter flight from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Family members, an Army honor guard, first responders and others stood on the tarmac as his flag-draped wooden coffin was removed from the plane and placed into a white hearse.
Scialdo’s wife, Kara, and parents, Marshall and Susan — their arms wrapped around one another — stepped to the back of the hearse to view the casket after it was removed from the plane.
All the while, members of the Patriot Guard stood by, watching, their American flags waiving in the wind. The Patriot Guard is a national organization of motorcycle enthusiasts who attend funerals to honor fallen military personnel.
Bonnie Comer, a part-time Naples resident who also lives in Minnesota, said she and her husband have been participating in Patriot Guard activities for soldiers for eight years.
“When 9/11 happened and my generation remembered how the Vietnam vets were brought home without love, affection and honor, we decided that the young men and women who were coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan should be supported,” she said. “It is such an honor to be here.”
Comer, who held an American flag, said she hopes Scialdo’s family knows that his sacrifice did not go unnoticed.
“There are strangers here who never knew their son, but we understand what he has given,” she said. “We don’t take our freedom for granted.”
Following Scialdo’s arrival in Naples, a procession of more than 100 people, including family members, friends and members of the Patriot Guard Riders, made their way from the airport to Shikany’s Funeral Home in Bonita Springs. Collier and Lee county sheriff’s deputies closed roads from the airport to the funeral home to allow the procession to travel uninterrupted.
One woman stood along U.S. 41 with a sign that said “We honor Staff Sgt. Marc Scialdo.” Students and teachers from Naples High School stood in front of the school, waving to the procession, some with their hands over their hearts.
On Thursday night, lines of people stood in the center aisle of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church waiting to pay their respects. Wedding-day photos of Scialdo and his wife, Kara, flashed across a projection screen, followed by pictures of the soldier growing up.
“An Extraordinary Guy, An Exceptional Life,” one slide said.
Leonard “Taz” Leary, a Patriot Guard Rider who organized the group Thursday, said honoring Scialdo was the right thing to do.
“Sgt. Marc Scialdo stepped up to the plate to defend my freedom,” he said. “I need to honor him with respect to his sacrifice.”
Leary, a Vietnam-era veteran, said the Patriot Guard Riders would not only be along for the journey on Thursday morning and to Scialdo’s wake Thursday evening, but will also follow his coffin to his funeral and burial today.
Funeral services for Scialdo will be held at 10 a.m. today at St. John the Evangelist Church, 625 111th Ave. N., North Naples. Burial with full military honors will follow at Palm Royale Cemetery, 6780 Vanderbilt Beach Road.
Procession for Marc Scialdo’s funeral
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard will escort Marc Scialdo and his procession along the following route Friday:
The procession will leave Shikany’s Bonita Funeral Home, 28300 U.S. 41, Bonita Springs, at 9:30 a.m. and travel south on U.S. 41 to Collier County. The procession will then turn right (west) onto 111th Avenue North and continue to St. John the Evangelist Church for the 10 a.m. service.
The estimated ending time for the service is 11:30 a.m. At that time, the honor guard and the procession will travel east on 111th Avenue North, continuing on the road after it becomes Immokalee Road. From Immokalee Road, the procession will turn right on Livingston Road, continuing down Livingston Road to Vanderbilt Beach Road.
The procession will then turn left (east) on Vanderbilt Beach Road and continue to the cemetery.
Affected intersections will be shut down briefly as the procession passes through.
Staff writer Jessica Lipscomb contributed to this report