National Guard SFC
Hardwood, MI
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Memorial Location: 

Foster CIty Cemetery
Oscar G. Johnson Memorial Highway
Foster City, MI

Killed while manning a checkpoint during combat operations, Baghdad, Iraq. Assigned to the 46th Military Police Company, Michigan Army National Guard, Kingford, MI

SFC James (Jim) Priestap was born on June 2, 1967, to Jim and Denise Priestap in Royal Oak, Michigan. In 1970, Jim’s father took a teaching job in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the town of Felch and moved the family to nearby Foster City. Soon thereafter Jim and Denise separated. Jim moved to Rapid River and Denise stayed in Foster City with the children. Jim and Lisa spent many happy weekends with their dad. In 1972, Jim started kindergarten and Denise married Roy Forstrom who had two sons, Troy and Allen. A year later Jim’s sister Janet was born. In 1976, Jim’s brother Richard was born to Jim and Patrice.

During his teen years, Jim liked riding his motorcycle, hunting and just spending time in the woods. In high school Jim would excel in football and track. Jim and Lisa would spend time with their father and Patrice, and often traveled. On a trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Jim skinned his knee and delighted in telling everyone that he was “wounded at Gettysburg.” Jim graduated from North Dickson High School in 1985 and attended Ferris State College. Later he would transfer to Northern Michigan University. Always a seeker of adventure, Jim got his private pilot’s license and became a certified scuba diver. While flying, Jim would take in-flight videos and would say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” But it would be his love of the water that would have him enlist in the Navy. There he became a Damage Control Specialist (firefighter), a Navy Diver and later a Rescue Diver. While home on leave Jim met Connie Harder and on June 11, 1994, they were married. Two years later, daughter Franchesca was born and on March 3, 1997, son Brody was born. Jim had always loved kids and was a great father who enjoyed spending endless days playing with and caring for his children.

After his discharge form the Navy, Jim, Connie and their children liven in Felch and in 2000, Jim applied to the Sarasota, Florida Sheriff’s Department and was hired. He moved the family to Florida and for the next five years would serve as a Deputy Sheriff and would spend many hours helping with hurricane relief efforts from the many hurricanes that would hit Florida. In January 2005, Jim and the family moved back to Michigan, to Hardwood. Once settled, Jim was hired in at the Veteran’s Memorial Hospital as a security officer. Jim also joined the Michigan National Guard’s 46th Military Police Company and would once again help with hurricane relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

In the spring of 2006, with many National Guard units shipping out for duty in Iraq, Jim knew that it wouldn’t be long before the 46th was called up to do a rotation. Jim spent most of this time helping friends, playing with the kids and enjoying his time with Connie. On July 9th the 46th shipped out for additional training before deploying to Iraq. Connie and the children would get to spend four more days with Jim in New York before having to say goodbye to him for the last time.

While in Iraq, one of the things Jim enjoyed was the chance to socialize with the Iraqi children. He would often hand out candy and toys and enjoy seeing them smile. Throughout his life Jim had always been a giver and spent much of life helping others. On November 23, 2006, Thanksgiving Day, Jim was once again handing out gift to Iraqi children while assigned duty at a vehicle checkpoint in Baghdad. A fellow soldier took a picture of J handing out these gifts and a few minutes later a sniper’s bullet ended his life.

On December 3, 2006, SFC James D. Priestap, was laid to rest with full military honors in his hometown of Foster City, Michigan. SFC Priestap’s awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal, the Navy, Marine and Army Achievement Medals, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal and the Combat Action Badge.


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