John Richard Priestner – Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army

NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.They died November 6, 2006, in Balad, Iraq, of injuries suffered when their AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed. Both soldiers were assigned to the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

  Killed were:

Chief Warrant Officer John R. Priestner, 42, of Pennsylvania.
Chief Warrant Officer Miles P. Henderson, 24, of Amarillo, Texas.

The incident is under investigation.

For further information related to this release the media can contact the Fort Bragg public affairs office at (910) 432-0661.

FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA – A North Carolina soldier was remembered by his grieving family Thursday as a dedicated father with “an awesome sense of humor” who believed in his mission in Iraq.

Chief Warrant Officer John R. Priestner, 42, of Sanford was killed when his AH-64D Apache helicopter crashed Monday in Balad, Iraq. Also killed in the crash was Chief Warrant Officer Miles P. Henderson, 24, of Canadian, Texas.

Both men were assigned to the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

“John had an awesome sense of humor. Very intense, dedicated. He was everything a hero would be,” his wife, Theresa Priestner, said in a statement released by his family late Thursday.

She said her husband referred to her and their two daughters – Breanne, 14, and Megan, 10 – as “Team Priestner,” and used the phrase when he last saw them this summer.

John Priestner served in Afghanistan from November 2002 to August 2003, and was a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, his family said. He deployed to Iraq in July.

“He believed what he did was the absolute right thing for that country,” Theresa Priestner said. “Any Army wife will tell you we're damn proud of our men. They're heroes. They believe in what they're doing. We believe in what they're doing.”

John Priestner grew up in Leraysville, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Northeast Bradford High School in 1982. He also is survived by his mother Linnea Priestner of North Charleston, South Carolina, his father Richard Priestner of Leraysville, Pa., his sister Sue Drag, and his twin brother Roger, his family said.

John Priestner will be buried November 16, 2006, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Family issues statement in soldier’s death in Iraq

November 10, 2006

The family of Army Chief Warrant Officer John Priestner, issued a statement late Thursday night, announcing that the body of the 42-year-old Bradford County man and helicopter pilot with the 82nd Airborne Division would be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.


Priestner, a 1982 graduate of Northeast Bradford High School, was killed Sunday in Iraq when his AH-64D aircraft crashed near Balad, Iraq, according to a news release from 82nd Airborne Division.

Priestner left behind wife, Teresa Lutz of Warren Center and two daughters.

“It's an enormous loss to the family, his friends and his country. John had an awesome sense of humor. Very intense, dedicated. He was everything a hero would be,” said Theresa (Lutz) Priestner. “I am damn proud of him. He believed what he did was the absolute right thing for that country,” she added.

John Priestner was a Gulf War veteran. He served in Afghanistan from November of 2002 to August of 2003. He left for Iraq on July 22, 2006.

“Any army wife will tell you, we're damn proud of our men. They're heroes. They believe in what they're doing. We believe in what they're doing,” said Theresa Priestner.

John Priestner will be buried on Nov. 16 in Arlington with full military honors, according to the family.

Memorial for soldier killed in Iraq planned

22 November 2006

The service will be held at 1 p.m. in the high school gym.

John R. Priestner, a pilot in Company A, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, was a highly respected and experienced officer of the Army who died when his Apache Helicopter crashed near Balad, Iraq, on Nov. 6, 2006. His co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2, Miles Henderson, 24, of Canadian, Texas also died in the crash.

On November 16, Priestner was honored as a hero and given a full military burial on the hills of Arlington National Cemetery.

Priestner leaves behind a wife, Teresa, and two children, Breanne and Megan.

He was a 1982 graduate of Northeast Bradford High School.

Fallen in Iraq: A Bradford County hero remembered

Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Daily And Sunday Review
26 Novembe 2006

LERAYSVILLE — Day after day after day, it was the same.

Years ago, inside a farmhouse in a valley near LeRaysville, little John Priestner and his brother, Roger, got up. Soon a big yellow school bus roared up the road — the bus with “Northeast Bradford” and “18” on the side — winking yellow and red, and stopped. The boys climbed on. It carried them up a hill and through the countryside, then pulled into the half-circle driveway at the school.

The freckled little boys and other kids thump-thumped down the bus steps, up the wide front sidewalk and toward the glass doors. Perhaps … no, we’ll say probably … some days a knit cap was grabbed and tossed, or little feet scuffed tracks into snow or morning dew, or the walls rang with kids’ shouts and laughs.

They marched past those walls of stone and yellow brick, past the white “1970” sign on a front wall. Past the black “Northeast Bradford Elementary School” words above. Past the flagpole. …

Saturday afternoon, the U.S. flag on that pole was at half-staff.

A memorial service was going on inside Northeast Elementary for John R. Priestner. John died serving that flag. And this afternoon, perhaps it was fitting that people had gathered in the same school where John began learning and growing and living his life, to mourn and remember and honor him after his death.

CW4 John Priestner died November 6, 2006, in a helicopter crash in Iraq. A pilot with Company A, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, he was in an AH-64D aircraft at the time.

Born in New Jersey, John grew up near LeRaysville and graduated from Northeast in 1982. He attended Keystone College, enlisted in the Air Force and later, the Army. Before Iraq, he served in Operation Desert Storm and Afghanistan.

John also had worked for Procter and Gamble and currently was living in Sanford, North Carolina, with his wife, Teresa Lutz Priestner, and daughters, Breanne, 14, and Megan, 10. Teresa’s also a Northeast graduate.

Guests packed the elementary school’s auditorium. In the middle of the stage, a wooden box displayed John’s flag casket and awards. “When loved ones become memories the memories become treasures,” read words written on a decorative stone. Two floral arrangements stood nearby, including red roses, white carnations and small, blue flowers. Dark ribbons around each bouquet read: “Our hero.”

And then there were photos. Hundreds of photos. Smaller photos on boards, larger framed photos on the stage. … John and Roger as tiny babies, in their parents’ arms. John and Roger as little tots, holding puppies. Young John in a cowboy hat. John in high school. John in a tux, a flower on his coat and his bride on his arm. John in a formal service photo, a flag behind him. John, Teresa and a young daughter in an Army plane. John and his collies. John and the girls in a swimming pool.

“I was in Afghanistan with John,” Kurt Etter explained, as he sat a couple of rows up, behind men wearing VFW caps. “We were pretty good friends.” John had been a pilot, Kurt his crew chief.

“He was an honest, really good friend.”

Kurt used to hang out at John’s house, shooting pool or playing darts. Today, he lives in Hornell, New York. He drove more than 100 miles to be here.

During the program, under soft lights, relatives and close friends spoke of John.

At the podium, Teresa explained her husband had been buried in Arlington National Cemetery. With country singer Toby Keith’s “Arlington” and other music accompanying, she showed slides of that service.

As Teresa sat with her arms around Breanne and Megan, the song played. “They gave me this plot of land, me and some other men … I’m on sacred ground and I’m in the best of company,” the voice sang. “I made it to Arlington.”

John had earlier requested to be buried in Arlington.

Shot on a rainy, gray day at the cemetery, photos showed the entrance, the chapel, two helicopters flying over, headstones. Soldiers carrying John’s flag-covered casket.

Roger, John’s fraternal twin, spoke of his brother, sometimes needing to pause between words.

The two had been in the original first-grade class at Northeast, he said. He’d heard many speak of his brother’s “loyalty, his sense of commitment, camaraderie and his can-do attitude.” The seeds of those traits were sown in their home, then cultivated by the community and their 4-H club, Roger said.

“In a very real sense … in a very real sense John was an Army of one,” before that was a slogan, he said. Family members laughed.

But John was playful, too. He sometimes teased Teresa, Roger revealed. “Teresa would go over there, give him a big hug and a kiss.” Clowning, John would act as if she’d passed on a terrible illness.

John often flew air-support missions for troops under fire. “His personal mission was as many as possible would come home alive.” Roger said. He choked up.

He never though he’d deliver his brother’s eulogy, Roger said — at age 42.

“I never thought I’d be the brother of a war hero … but I am.”

Close friend and classmate Glenn Pitcher shared humorous stories of John. “Parents are going to learn some new stuff about John!” he informed all.

Like the time John ate Glenn’s mother’s “scalloped critter” then asked “What is this?” They told him. He got sick.

Like the time, on the senior trip, he and John ended up in a holding cell. (No further explanation was offered.)

Like the time Glenn and, this time, Roger ended up in another holding cell, at the Six Flags park (firecrackers thrown from a skyride) and John, when he showed up, snooped through the security guards’ desk drawers.

Like the time there was an Ozzy Osborne rock concert (At this point, Roger started laughing) and they skipped school … and went hunting … and someone yelled “Woodchuck!” And John fell out the back.

John had a “passion for the hunt,” Glenn said.

John’s family will receive a memorial quilt. On that quilt, Glenn said, he wrote: “A friend in life, a friend for life and always.” He said he also could have written John had “a passion in life, a passion for life, a passion always.”

“I miss you,” Glenn ended.

John’s younger daughter, Megan, shared memories, too. Chatting eagerly, she told of her dad and his boat and his Web cam. Her dad helping her with math, dumping her and a friend off a tube while boating, dumping her MOM off a tube while boating, saying “Nope,” saying “Blahblah” …

“He was a hero,” Megan said. “I really loved him. He was really funny!”

John’s young niece Gracie Lutz performed a song for Teresa and her daughters. “I will be your candle on the water, my love for you will always burn,” she sang. “I’ll never let you go.”

Frank Zuckerman of Towanda said the families had met when their children attended St. Agnes School. “He was a best fiend, he was a son, a husband and a father,” Frank said. If we remember John for just one moment each day, he suggested, he’ll never be forgotten.

To conclude, Linnea Priestner, John’s mother, took the podium.

“He wasn’t the brightest child in school, he wasn’t the most obedient,” she admitted. “But he had a passion. … He achieved his goals.”

She added: “This is my mission — traditional family values and that our children develop a dream.”

After the service, friends and family mingled.

Richard Priestner, John’s father, was pleased with the community’s support and proud of Roger’s part in the service. And John — “he was so loyal.”

Bill Gallagher, who grew up near the Priestners, remembered playing football with them and another neighbor, Dan MacNamera. The four rough-housed so hard they sometimes ripped each other’s sweatshirts. “Never wore a sweatshirt after that!”

Jacob Lutz, 6, remembered his “Uncle Hawk.” “He was a good man,” he stated in his light voice.

“He was a hero.”

“He was just always happy, always smiling,” classmate Roberta Cook Seeley said, as she stood with friends in the lobby. Suzanne Bryan Townsend remembered John’s smile — and eyes. For Terri Jagger, the memory’s of John playing basketball with classmate Keith Bonin.

Theresa Edsell Krymowski heard the “Arlington” song one day on the radio, she said. She had to turn it off. “I lost it.”

On a table near the women stand photo boards. In the center of one hangs a shot of John in his green dress uniform — four gold buttons down the middle, “Priestner” tag on one side, ribbons on the other. John stands straight and serious. And without a doubt, proud.

Outside, the sun shines on the sidewalk, circular driveway, brick walls. And the lowered flag.

“It was beautiful,” Teresa, wearing a U.S. flag pin and U.S. flag necklace, said of the service. “It was good for John. It was all about John. That’s what I wanted. …

“He is a true American hero.”

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In “You don't have to be a veteran to feel for his death” (Opinion, April 8, 2007), Columnist Mike Kelly says, “One of every five soldiers killed comes from a town with less than 5,000 people.” My cousin, John Richard Priestner, was one of those soldiers.

He grew up in a small rural, farm town, Le Raysville, Pennsylvania, population 309 of 2007. He did farm chores with his twin brother, Roger, before going off to school each morning.

He didn't join the Army right out of high school to help pay for his college education, like many of his comrades. He already had a wife and two daughters and was offered a desk job that he refused because he wanted to serve his country the best way he knew how.

He rose to the rank of chief warrant officer 4th class and was an expert aviator. So, while John grew up in a small town his job as a helicopter pilot was no small-town profession. He made something of himself and in the process made his family and his country proud.

John was assigned to the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was killed on November 6, 2006, in Balad, Iraq, when his AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed. He was buried on November 16 at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

After my cousin died, for the first time I heard the expression that this is a “friends and family war” – because unless you know someone who's been killed, you really don't care.

If anyone is interested to find out who is fighting this war, I have since my cousin's death happened upon two Web sites that deserve some atttention. The first one is Through this site, I learned who is buried on either side of John.

This site also allows me to see these other men and women on their wedding days, the days their children were born and their funerals at Arlington.

Another informative Web site is This site tells about the soldier through the words of family and friends. From many who did not know the soldier, there are expressions of gratitude for his ultimate sacrifice. It brings me to tears to read the entries belonging to my cousin because I realized for the first time how really special he was and that he had given so much to so many and touched them in different ways.

I happened upon one soldier who stands out in my mind. He came home from leave to witness the birth of his namesake on Jan. 14. He returned to Iraq only to be killed eight days later, on Jan. 22, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. On the legacy Web site, I read his wife's letter to her husband. It began “My one true love” and ended “See you in my dreams, sweetie.” These things are etched into my mind. This man's son will never get the opportunity to meet his very own hero – his own dad.

Unfortunately, these men and women will continue to die. I understand why we're over there. I do. I just don't want more families to go through what mine has and will continue to go through for a lifetime. I support our troops. I just want them to all come home soon!

Susan Tommaney lives in Ramsey.

Fallen Soldier, Missing Father

Published in The New York Times “Upfront”
Courtesy of Bre Priestner


Three years ago, Bre Priestner's father was killed in Iraq

Almost three years ago, my father died in an Apache helicopter crash in Iraq, when I was 14 and my little sister, Megan, was 10. Our parents had been married for nearly 20 years, and we had everything we could ask for. But it all was shattered on November 7, 2006, when we got the news.

I woke up early that morning and was planning to stay home from school because I didn't feel well. I was lying in bed listening to music when the doorbell rang.

Mom came down the stairs to my room. She looked distraught. I jumped out of bed and followed her upstairs. Megan hadn't left for school yet. When I saw the three Army officers standing in our living room, I froze. I started shaking my head and saying, “No, no.”

They asked us to sit down, and then the words came: “I regret to inform you that your father, Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Priestner, was killed last night …”

Dad served in Iraq in 1991, during the Persian Gulf War; in 2002, he spent nine months in Afghanistan. Although he came home safe both times, we were scared when he left for Iraq in July 2006.

But we all felt that Dad could do anything, and he said he would do whatever it took to bring his unit home alive. While he was in Iraq, we talked to him using Yahoo Messenger and e-mail, and he called almost every day.

The night Dad shipped out, he told us, “If anything happens to me, do not be mad at the Army or at God.” That night he called us “Team Priestner.” We used that saying when he was in Iraq and we still use it, to keep us going.

Talking to other children of the fallen through TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) has been a great experience for me. At Fort Bragg (near our home in North Carolina), we have support groups for all ages. Some kids don't want to talk about losing a parent; others want to know if things will get any easier, and that question is so hard. I'm just now getting things figured out, and it's been nearly three years.

I've been unfocused in everything and was diagnosed with depression. I'm getting better, but the best thing I did was talk to my mom and my counselor about how I felt.

The road we are all on isn't easy, and I don't know how anyone could think it would be. That's why it's hard when we hear a question like, “Why aren't you over it yet?”

The simple answer is that we've had a major part of our lives ripped from us. A song or anything can trigger a painful memory, and suddenly we get quiet or start crying.

Losing someone so important to you, especially when you're so young, can be devastating. Only one parent will be there for your proms, your graduations, your wedding, and to see grandchildren grow up.

But as military families, we are strong. Even though we're sometimes a little stubborn, we are survivors. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

DATE OF BIRTH: 07/08/1964
DATE OF DEATH: 11/06/2006

jrpriestner-gravesite-photo-october-2007-001 jrpriestner-gravesite-photo-122506-001 jrpriestner-gravesite-photo-november-2006-001 jrpriestner-gravesite-photo-november-2006-002 jrpriestner-gravesite-photo-november-2006-003

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment