Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

John P Pryor

Moorestown, New Jersey

December 25, 2008

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
42 Army Maj

1st Medical Detachment, Forward Surgical Team

Fort Totten, New York

 Killed in Mosul of wounds suffered when a mortar round impacted near his living quarters.


From The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, NT dailygazette.com 12/29/08:

Pa. surgeon was ’84 Shen grad
By Jessica Harding
Devoted citizen soldier recalled

CLIFTON PARK — Trauma surgeon Maj. John P. Pryor died doing the work that many, including his family members, may not understand, but according to his friends was practically part of his DNA.

Pryor, a 1984 Shenendehowa High School graduate who worked as the program director for the Trauma Center at the University of Pennsylvania, left for his second tour of duty in Iraq as part of the Army Reserve earlier this month. He died Christmas Day in Mosul when a mortar round exploded near his living quarters.

In a letter written to various trauma and critical care personnel, a colleague of Pryor’s, Dr. Kenneth L. Mattox of Houston, Texas, wrote that fate brought Pryor to Iraq.

“He understood that he was predestined to be in the heat of the battle, whether it be Philadelphia or Mosul. It was his fate to patch up the secondary effects of man’s inhumanity to man,” Mattox wrote.

Mike McEvoy, a paramedic with the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Ambulance Corps, was there when Pryor got his start in the medical field. Pryor joined the ambulance corps when he was 17 and McEvoy taught the teen’s first EMT course. The two remained in touch throughout the years.

McEvoy said Pryor was an “enthusiastic and passionate person” who worked hard for the ambulance corps throughout high school and during breaks from college.

desire to help

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, affected Pryor in a life-changing way. Upon learning of the catastrophe at the World Trade Center, Pryor packed his bags and drove to New York City where he spent time administering to the injured at ground zero. After the attack, Pryor, like so many others, decided his talents would be better utilized helping his country overseas. So, at 39, he enlisted in the Army Reserve.

“He looked at what was happening in the country, and as a surgeon he thought he could use his skills to help people in Iraq,” McEvoy said. “He saw that they needed good trauma surgeons on the front lines, so that’s where he went.”

McEvoy said it was difficult for Pryor to explain to his family members how he felt about what he was doing, and it was equally hard for them to accept his decisions.

Pryor knew he could be killed, but saw the benefits of helping others as far outweighing the risks, McEvoy said.

“He literally saved hundreds of young soldiers,” McEvoy said. “That’s the kind of person he was.”

Pryor was so aware of the risks he was taking that he prepared an obituary and made funeral arrangements prior to going overseas.

“He’s not a stupid person,” McEvoy said. “He knew where he was going and what the risks were, so he made funeral arrangements and made sure everything was taken care of.”

McEvoy said it took Pryor some time to get into medical school, but once he did he excelled and became a “shining star.” He studied at the University at Buffalo and decided to go into the field of surgery.

McEvoy said those in the field who knew Pryor described him as a gentleman.

“He never developed arrogance about his talent,” McEvoy said. “He was always interested in sharing what he knew with other people and using his talent to help people.”

Pryor was also director of the Office of Life Support education for the Division of Trauma at the University of Pennsylvania.

He wrote for national publications about the similarities between the urban gang and drug violence in Philadelphia and what he saw in the Iraq war.

Although Pryor saw horrific violence in his life, McEvoy said, most people would have called him a happy person.

“Those who met him would say this is a person who is happy from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed,” McEvoy said.

Those close to Pryor are planning a memorial service locally, McEvoy said. Funeral arrangements at his hometown of Moorestown, N.J., have not been finalized.

Pryor leaves behind a wife and three children. He is also survived by a brother, Richard, of Delmar, an emergency doctor at Ellis Hospital, and both his parents.

Mattox’s letter appears in its entirety on a Web site set up by Pryor’s family, www.drjohnpryor.com.

“Yes,” Mattox wrote. “John Pryor has the trauma surgeon’s genome. There is no need for question or discussion. We each in our own way know exactly why John was in Iraq. On another day, the loss could have been any one of us.”

From CBS WRGB 6 cbs6albany.com 12/27/08:

Doctor with local ties killed serving in Iraq
Randy Simons
December 27, 2008 - 9:22PM

An army surgeon with ties to the Capital Region was killed in Iraq on Christmas day.

Major Dr. John Pryor died when a mortar round exploded near his living quarters.

Dr. Pryor graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 1984, and volunteered with the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Ambulance Corps during high school and college.

Mike McEvoy has worked at that station for nearly 30 years and says he never met a person more dedicated to emergency care than John.

"he was passionate about everything he did. Medicine, family, friends. He was just a dynamic and passionate person" says Mike McEvoy

Working as a trauma surgeon at UPenn Hospital in Philadelphia, Pryor dropped everything to answer what friends say was his calling.

"He wanted to help wounded soldiers in Iraq. He had a gift. He thought that gift was needed and he was right" says McEvoy.

Before departing for Iraq, Pryor did something many people might not do. He met with a funeral director to set up his own service, selected his own music, picked out his casket and even wrote his own obituary to take the burden off his family. In his obituary he writes it was "emotionally very challenging to balance family and country". While many of his family, friends and colleagues didn't want him to go, Pryor continues in his obituary to ask for forgiveness for leaving for Iraq.

Pryor is survived by his wife, three children, brother and both his parents.

His brother, Richard, is currently a doctor at Ellis Hospital. 

Dr. John Pryor was 42.

To learn more about Dr. John Pryor, a website has been set-up below.


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