U.S. soldier who spent roughly 7 years of his life in a rotation of deployments reflects on 9/11

The deployments first began in 2001 for retired U.S. Army Sgt. Major E9 John Presly

San Antonio – Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Major E9 John Presly spent more than 22 years serving his country, the latter part in Special Forces.

He estimates he did about 20 deployments, adding up to about seven years of his life.

The deployments started in 2001, and some were high intense, quick deployments. One lasted for 18 months during the surge.

“I spent months without a shower, without normal food,” said Presly.

He’s almost fluent in Pashto from living with the population for over a year. His deployments continued even after he left the military when he traveled as a contractor.

Presly was there when they hunted for Osama Bin Laden and his 21st birthday was spent in Afghanistan. Even after he could leave or volunteer out of deployments, he couldn’t. He felt compelled to stay to protect other soldiers.

“If you leave, you take all your experience with you. It’s your job to keep those guys alive, pass on what you know,” he said. The hardest part of his service to his country was leaving his daughter.

“People ask me what’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I think it was watching my daughter grow up through the screen of an iPhone,” Presly said.

He has several notebooks, detailing what he was doing those days and years he was away.

Presly was in training in Germany when 9/11 happened, and it took a few days to sink in that he was headed to war.

“Being rangers, you know you’re one of the first guys to go. I remember one of the guys saying, ‘Man I wouldn’t wanna be you guys,’” he recalled.

He was in the front line, and he’s not shy to tell you, he really didn’t want to be there. But, Presly said he is grateful for the life-changing experiences that it brought him.

He met his wife, some of his best friends and he feels honored to have walked with many heroes.

“They’ll say something like ‘you’re a hero.’ Well I’m not but I’ve walked through the halls with them,” he said. “I don’t take anything for granted anymore. Every day is great. We can go down the streets freely, we can say what we want. I don’t take any of that for granted after seeing what true hardship looks like.”

He feels lucky enough to remember that after 9/11, everyone was proud to be an American. It’s just sad, he says, that it had to take a tragedy.

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About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Alex Trevino is a video editor at KSAT who works on the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.