VA recognizes late Dickinson Co. soldier

IRON MOUNTAIN, MI:   Congressman and Physician Dan Benishek (MI-01) today praised the announcement that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approved the naming of the circle drive at the Oscar G. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iron Mountain in honor of the late Sgt. First Class James Priestap of Foster City.

Benishek said,  “This memorial will serve as enduring tribute to Sgt. Priestap and the enormous sacrifice he made for our freedoms.  Sgt. Priestap’s family and the whole Dickinson community should be deservedly proud of this memorial.  I am honored to have helped fight for this distinction over the past two years and I’m looking forward to seeing it now become reality.  The naming of this drive is a small gesture of gratitude, but I believe it will forever be a way to remember a true hero from Northern Michigan who laid down his life so that others could live in freedom.”

Born in Royal Oak in 1967, Priestap graduated from North Dickinson High School in 1985.  He attended Ferris State University and Northern Michigan University before joining the U.S. Navy as a rescue swimmer.   Sgt. Priestap also worked as a police deputy in Sarasota, Florida, as well as an officer with the Oscar G. Johnson VAMC and the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Department.  While bravely serving his nation in Iraq, Sgt. Priestap was killed in action on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006.

Benishek, who worked at the Iron Mountain VA Medical Center for 20 years, authored legislation to designate the circle drive after Sgt. Priestap and has worked over the past two years to press the VA name to the drive after the fallen soldier.