Plane crash claims Marine on brink of realizing dream
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Alexander “A.J.” Prezioso's first love was airplanes.
“My son always wanted to be a pilot,” his mother recalled yesterday. “He had airplanes in his room at 1 and 2 years old. He started designing them. He starting building them with Legos.”
As a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and a flight training student at the Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Florida, Prezioso, 23, was well on his way to realizing a lifelong dream, his family said. But on Friday, the 2002 Jeffer son High School graduate was killed during flight training when a military plane crashed near Ashville, Alabama.
The crash, which remains under investigation, also killed the instructor pilot, Major David Yaggy, 34, of Sparks, Maryland, a combat-decorated pilot who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a statement by the military.
Prezioso had been a Marine for nearly two years and lived in Lake Worth, Florida, the statement said. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, his family said.
“He was just a great brother, a great son and a great friend,” said his sister, Tara, who lives in North Carolina. “He just loved everyone, and everyone loved him.”
She said their father, Alexander Prezioso, still lives in Lake Hopatcong and was en route yesterday to Florida, where the military will be holding services at Pensacola Naval Air Station.
The T-34C Turbomentor — a two-seat training aircraft — crashed at 3:45 p.m. Friday about 60 miles north of Birmingham, Alabama, military officials said. Both Marines were members of Training Squadron SIX at Naval Air Station Whit ing Field, officials said.
In a phone interview from her Florida home, Prezioso's mother, Francine, proudly recalled her son's passion for flight. After graduating from high school, he went to the University of New Haven in Connecticut for aeronautical science, and then decided to transfer to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
There, during his junior year, he was recruited by the Marines, she said. He went to officer candidates school in the summer between junior and senior year, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant just before graduation. He then applied for the aviator program.
It takes a lot to be a Marine and more to be a Marine aviator,” Francine Prezioso said. “He was so proud that they accepted him.”
Friends from Jefferson also recalled Prezioso's love of flying yesterday. On recent trips back to New Jersey, Prezioso would proudly show friends photos of him standing next to various military planes.
“He got really animated when he talked about it,” said Scott Langan, 24, who played lacrosse with Prezioso from eighth grade through high school.
Prezioso was known for his quickness and agility in lacrosse, his teammates and coach at Jeffer son High School said. “He was just a super, hard-working kid, true to the team, loyal to the teammates,” said lacrosse head coach Harry Shortway. “He thrived on the disci pline.”
His No. 2 jersey will be retired, Shortway said, just as the No. 31 jersey was retired after 1996 Jeffer son High graduate and football captain J.T. Wroblewski was killed in Iraq while serving as a Marine in 2004.
Prezioso's friends from school are flying in from every part of the country to be part of his memorial services, his mother said.
“People gravitated to him,” she said. “He would just look at you, smile, and you melted.”
While going through her son's belongings over the last few days, Francine Prezioso came across a statement he wrote a few years ago, when applying for the Marine aviator program.
“I wanted to become an officer because I always wanted to fly in the military, as long as I can remember,” it read. “I feel honored and proud to be able to fulfill my lifelong dream.”
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard