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Military impact from war on terror deeply felt in NC

Posted September 9, 2011

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— A decade of deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq has been hard on the military community across the nation and closer to home.

Families from Fort Bragg, Seymour Johnson and Camp Lejeune have all made sacrifices in the war on terror, which was launched after four hijacked planes struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon and crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania in a coordinated suicide mission on Sept. 11, 2001.

Army Chief Warrant Officer John Priestner, of Sanford, is one of thousands of soldiers who will never come home from war to their waiting families. He died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in November 2006.

He was 42.

"As soon as they said my dad was dead, I felt like my brain – my whole body – just collapsed," said his 15-year-old daughter Megan Priestner. "I didn't know what to do anymore."

Chief Warrant Officer John Priestner Sanford family lost father in war on terror

Megan Priestner was in kindergarten when the twin towers fell, calling her father, who served in the first Gulf War, to fight again. He had been a National Guardsman, but rejoined the active duty Army shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks and moved his family from Pennsylvania to Fort Bragg.

"He loved his country (and was) very devoted to his country," said his wife, Theresa. "He believed in everything about it."

In 2002, he deployed to Afghanistan, leaving his daughters and wife behind.

"I was pretty angry about moving," said 19-year-old Breanne Priestner. "He left, so I couldn't be mad at him. My mom got the brunt of it. I was worried. I was really scared."

Megan Priestner recalls going from being "daddy's little girl" to feeling an incredible void in her life.

"He was never there for the open houses for school. He wasn't there for a lot of awards ceremonies, not much of anything," she said.

Now that her father is not just overseas, but gone forever, Megan Priestner said his absence is even more painful.

"Starting high school this year, it hurts more than I thought it would because I thought he was going to be here for all of this," she said. "It just hurts. It really does."


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