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Patriot remembered: Military mom memorializes son who died in National Guard helicopter crash with new book

FOX News logo FOX News 3/13/2023 Angelica Stabile
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The memory of a true patriot should never wane nor be forgotten.

This is a guiding principle for military mom Anne Leavy-Prial after the tragic death of her son, National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, a little over two years ago.

Prial, who was 30 years old when he died, was a devoted National Guardsman and a passionate American, Leavy-Prial of Warwick, New York, told Fox News Digital in a phone interview.

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On Jan. 20, 2021, three National Guard members, including Prial, were killed when their helicopter crashed in an upstate New York field just south of Rochester, according to an Associated Press report at the time.

The other servicemen killed in the crash were Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steven Skoda, 54, of Rochester, New York, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Christian Koch, 39, of Honeoye Falls, New York, the National Guard reported.

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Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial and his mother, Anne Leavy-Prial, of Warwick, New York. Anne Leavy-Prial © Anne Leavy-Prial Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial and his mother, Anne Leavy-Prial, of Warwick, New York. Anne Leavy-Prial

The UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter took a "nosedive" while the trio were practicing recovery maneuvers, at some point experiencing a crisis, said Leavy-Prial.

"There was a press conference that the National Guard held, and it was deemed that the error was a procedural error," she said. 

"So, in other words, it wasn't a mechanical error." 

In flight training missions, service members are tasked with putting the machine "in danger" to "imitate real life as much as possible," she explained.

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When Prial and his team attempted this particular training maneuver, the procedure was "not clear" in terms of the helicopter's altitude and speed, Leavy-Prial said.

"So, when the machine was put into this compromised position … it was going too fast, and it was too low to recover it," she continued. 

"And so it just hit the ground."

Daniel "Danny" Prial (left) and his brother, Terence Prial, at the latter's graduation from Officer Candidate School. Anne Leavy-Prial © Anne Leavy-Prial Daniel "Danny" Prial (left) and his brother, Terence Prial, at the latter's graduation from Officer Candidate School. Anne Leavy-Prial

As a result, the National Guard now has restricted this maneuver to simulator practice only, according to Leavy-Prial.

The Gold Star mother refuses to let the legacy of her son perish.

A mother of five and wife of 38 years, Leavy-Prial said that her son, their middle child nicknamed Danny, was destined to serve his country.

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Prial’s father, Greg, was a New York City firefighter who responded to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

After watching the tragedy on television and worrying about his dad — who returned home safely — the then 11-year-old Prial decided he would join the military once he was of age.

The Prial family is shown here, including all five children. Mom Anne Leavy-Prial is third from left; her husband, Greg Prial, is at far left. Their son, Danny Prial, is at center, rear, in red shirt. Anne Leavy-Prial © Anne Leavy-Prial The Prial family is shown here, including all five children. Mom Anne Leavy-Prial is third from left; her husband, Greg Prial, is at far left. Their son, Danny Prial, is at center, rear, in red shirt. Anne Leavy-Prial

Prial pursued his dreams "always with 9/11 in mind," his mother said. 

He attended West Point Military Academy right after high school. 

Instead of choosing a gemstone for the center of his West Point ring, Prial chose to place a hunk of glass from the World Trade Center — recovered by his father — in the center, Leavy-Prial said.

"And he made me a replica so that I have a pendant with glass from the World Trade Center," she continued.

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"He was sentimental, country-loving," she added. "He just loved the United States, loved his fellow people."

Prial took his strong love of country to Afghanistan, when he was deployed there for nine months in 2014.

Daniel Prial loved playing basketball. He is seen here dunking the ball. Anne Leavy-Prial © Anne Leavy-Prial Daniel Prial loved playing basketball. He is seen here dunking the ball. Anne Leavy-Prial

The young Prial had a passion for flying and even stepped down from his rank as captain to fly more frequently. 

"He wanted to fly," his mother said. "His passion was medevac rescue missions, which is what he did in Afghanistan." 

When news of Prial’s death became known widely, the outpouring of support from people who knew and loved him was immense, she also said.

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"After he died, we started getting so many cards and letters," she said. "I wrote over 800 handwritten thank you notes."

Daniel Prial is shown coaching a boys soccer team in Alabama while wearing a suit. Anne Leavy-Prial © Anne Leavy-Prial Daniel Prial is shown coaching a boys soccer team in Alabama while wearing a suit. Anne Leavy-Prial

She added, "But that just gives you an idea of the number of people that he touched and the stories … We never even knew about the people that he helped."

Leavy-Prial felt the need to get these letters "down" in permanent form, which birthed the inspiration for her book, "The Fullest Measure."

The book is also inspired by "a mother’s desire to do everything [she] can to preserve his memory, and for people to know about what a wonderful young man he was," she said.

It was "therapeutic" to write about her son, she noted.

A portion of all sales of "The Fullest Measure" will be donated to the Warwick Valley VFW, said Anne Leavy-Prial. Anne Leavy-Prial © Anne Leavy-Prial A portion of all sales of "The Fullest Measure" will be donated to the Warwick Valley VFW, said Anne Leavy-Prial. Anne Leavy-Prial

The biography is organized chronologically. Leavy-Prial tells stories from her son's life with selected letters throughout the book.

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The devoted mother hopes readers are "inspired" by her son, by the way he "loved everybody" and loved his country.

"He really appreciated our country and didn’t take it for granted, but felt that he had to do his small part," she said.

Leavy-Prial is encouraging other Gold Star families to always remember the "important dates" in a lost loved one's life, and to keep their memory alive always.

The cover of new book "The Fullest Measure," written by Anne Leavy-Prial. Anne Leavy-Prial © Anne Leavy-Prial The cover of new book "The Fullest Measure," written by Anne Leavy-Prial. Anne Leavy-Prial

"All the good that they did, it meant something," she said. "It doesn’t end with their lives."

"These people died for us," she also said. "And even if they didn't die, people who join the military are doing it for their fellow Americans."

A portion of all sales of "The Fullest Measure" will be donated to the Warwick Valley VFW, she said.

The book is currently available for purchase on Amazon. 

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