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'Flying was his dream.' National Guardsman Daniel Prial remembered

Heather Yakin
Times Herald-Record

After 9/11, Daniel Prial chose his path: He wanted to go into the military. 

“It was a tough day for him,” recalls his father, Greg Prial. Greg Prial was working that day as a lieutenant with the FDNY, and his family hadn’t heard from him. The experience marked Danny, and lit a fire. 

“It kind of set him on a path,” his father said. 

That path, filled with hard work, led to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and a career as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot for the U.S. Army. 

“His dream was to fly,” Greg Prial said, “and he got that.” 

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30, of Rochester was killed in a military helicopter crash in Mendon on Jan. 20, 2021.

On Wednesday, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Prial, 30, was one of three soldiers with U.S. Army C Company 1st Battalion, part of the Rochester-based 171st General Support Aviation Battalion, who died in a U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 medical helicopter crash near Rochester

Danny was the middle of five kids for Greg and Anne Prial, a Ph. D. and associate vice president of Business, Math, Science and Technology at SUNY Orange. He had an older sister and brother, Rebecca and Terence; two younger sisters, Brigid and Jennifer. 

In Warwick, Greg Prial said, the community has honored their son’s sacrifice.  

“They lined our street with American flags,” he said. “The outpouring has been overwhelming.”   

Greg Prial was a Marine before his firefighting career, with his own stint with helicopters, and he understood the risks of flying a machine with thousands of moving parts. But this was Danny’s dream. 

“He loved it,” Greg Prial said. “He loved flying, He loved serving. He loved being part of something bigger than himself.” 

Danny’s enthusiasm for the military kind of drew in his brother, Terence, who is now a captain in the Army, their father said. 

Daniel Prial served as a medical evacuation platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Divsion's 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014-2015 with the 82nd Airborne, where his team transported injured military personnel, his father said.

In 2008, when Daniel Prial was among roughly 1,300 new cadets in the West Point Military Academy’s Class of 2012, he told a Times Herald-Record reporter that he didn’t apply to any other college. 

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American flags line South Lynn Street in Warwick on January 22, 2021.

“It’s all or nothing,” he told the reporter as he waited to take his oath to serve his country.  

Danny wasn't a big guy, his father said; he split the difference between Greg Prial's 6-foot height and Anne Prial's 5 feet. But he was a hard worker.

In high school, Danny competed in cross country and track and field. As a high school senior, he won the Orange County outdoor title in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, and the Section 9 state qualifier. He placed 24th overall at the state championships.

He was really the leader of our team," said retired Warwick High School cross country and track coach Tim Saint Lawrence. "He was a small, little guy, but he was a big leader. The glue that kept us together."

Daniel Prial's brother and sisters also ran track, Saint Lawrence said, joking that "it was like the Prial factory of champions."

Danny was respected by everyone, the coach said, and he'll be missed.

"He was a hometown hero," he said. "He always will be."

At West Point, Daniel Prial also competed in track and hosted a sports talk radio show with friends at West Point. He was a big Mets fan. 

“A very good golfer,” Greg Prial said. “Anywhere you wanted to play, that’s where he’d play.” 

At West Point, each cadet chooses a stone, something with personal meaning, for his or her class ring. Daniel Prial’s choice was one that resonates deeply in his hometown. 

Greg Prial said that while he was down at the World Trade Center, his son had asked him to bring something back. 

“I brought him a big chunk of glass,” he said, a piece of one of the towers’ windows from the pile, dirty and cracked.  

Prial said Danny took a chunk of the glass to a jeweler, who cleaned and cut and polished the glass and set it in the ring. 

“That was his class ring,” Greg Prial said. “And he had a necklace made, and gave it to his mother.” 

hyakin@th-record.com