Created: January 22, 2021 05:44 PM
MENDON, N.Y. (WHEC) — Two of the New York Army National Guard members who lost their lives in the helicopter crash in Mendon on Wednesday, grew up in other parts of the state, but had made Rochester their permanent home.
Chief Warrant Officer Steve Skoda is from Johnstown, New York. He was a 35-year veteran of the Army and the New York Army National Guard. He flew UH-1 helicopters for nearly 30 years and as a senior instructor pilot taught and mentored hundreds of other soldiers. He was twice deployed to Afghanistan.
“He was, to my estimation, with everything that has gone on with our country lately, he was the embodiment of a real American, a real patriot. He dedicated his whole life to flying all over the country rescuing people and he believed in it. He didn't have to go to Afghanistan two years ago, he was the senior man but he felt it was his duty and he went and he went for a year at age 54,” Skoda’s friend and neighbor Gregory Young told News10NBC.
Brian Mossa lived next-door to Skoda.
“He would mow our lawn without asking just because he was a nice guy, he bought presents for our kids and he would snow-blow the driveway sometimes…he was always willing to help out, always, and he never really expected anything in return…he’s just the kind of fella who you’d want to know… who you want living next to you,” he told News10NBC.
In messages online, his fellow pilots lovingly call Skoda “chief”—a man they say always thought about others first. Skoda was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk A and L models, the UH-1 "Huey", the OH-58 Kiowa, the AH-1 Cobra, and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. He worked as a full-time National Guard technician at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Rochester International Airport, as well as serving as a member of C Company of the 171st General Support Aviation Battalion.
Skoda's awards included the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Army Reserve Overseas Training Ribbon, the Department of State Superior Honor Award, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Master Army Aviator Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation.
Thirty-year-old Daniel Prial comes from a family of service. Friends say his father, a New York City Firefighter on 9/11, inspired him to join the military. The 2012 graduate of West Point wore his class ring often,
“The center stone in Dan's ring is a piece from the World Trade Center that his dad recovered after 9/11 and it just sort of speaks to what really meant most to Danny,” his best friend and West Point roommate Adam Scott told News10NBC.
Chief Warrant Officer Prial had served in the Army since 2012 after earning a commission at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served as a medical evacuation platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division's 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
Prial was deployed to Afghanistan twice while on active duty and had relocated to Rochester in the summer of 2020.
“He loved flying, it's why he got out of active duty and joined the (National) Guard. He gave up his commission and became a warrant officer because he just wanted to fly so maybe in a weird twist of fate, he was doing what he loved to do when he reached the ultimate end but that's Danny…doing what he loved to do and just being unapologetically him and we’ll always love him for that,” Scott said.
Prial attained the rank of captain before accepting the appointment as a warrant officer in the New York Army National Guard so he could continue to fly. He was working as a federal technician at the Army Aviation Support Facility at the Rochester International Airport. He was rated to fly the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and had 670 flying hours.
His awards include the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Afghan Campaign Medal and the Army Aviator Badge.
Prial’s hometown of Warwick in Orange County has lined the streets with American Flags in his honor.
“I've known Danny most of my life and I'm definitely better because of it, Danny was a very passionate and infectious person with a personality that you can't forget,” said his long-time friend Katie Grahn Scott.
Grahn Scott was introduced to her husband Adam, by Prial when she came to visit him at West Point.
“Being such a standup guy and always being there for you… he’s so passionate about being the best brother, the best friend and the best son that he can be and I think that manifested itself throughout his life, not only among his friends and family but his decision to dedicate his life to our country,” she said.
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