AAPI Story：“ Never Give up ”
By Joe Luu
The month of May is Asian American month. This is the month to celebrate those who have accomplished great things in the United States. Thanks to Donald Presto’s persistence which made him the hero he is today. He failed many times and never gave up. He was one of the few pilots who were allowed to fly former President Barack Obama.
Donald was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Donald’s parents emigrated from the Philippines to the United States for a better life. Currently, he resides with his family of seven in Temecula, California. Throughout his military career, he had been stationed over the world. In total, he had served more than 25 years as an active-duty Marine pilot. “I always wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid. My Dad was in the Navy. I remember my dad took me to an air show, the Blue Angel Show, when I was six years old. I immediately joined the Marines to learn how to fly as soon as I graduated from high school”, said Presto. Lieutenant Presto had to go through vigorous pilot training to pass his flight school. “I failed four times already. Five times is the maximum time that one can fail as a pilot. I convinced myself and told my squadron commander, either I pass or you are going to have to kick me out of the Marine Corps”, claimed Presto. On the fifth flight test, he passed with flying colors. His perseverance and commitment to excellence paid off.
Lt. Col. Presto was presented a Distinguished Flying Cross, DFC, for his meritorious and courageous service. Getting a DFC confirms that one is extraordinary and serves beyond one’s call of duty. “Many DFC recipients are not alive to accept their posthumous awards. I am very fortunate and blessed to be able to receive this highly decorated award” Presto humbly stated. In 2003, Presto safely evacuated 75 marines from a combat landing zone in Iraq. None of them died under his dangerous missions during that night. He placed the lives of others before his own life.
His story made it to the White House. Donald was given a chance of a lifetime to fly former President Barrack Obama and the former First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Mr. Obama looks so young in person. He was charming and a true gentleman. I remember we were in the middle of taking a photoshoot with him. I was supposed to be in the middle of the photo but instead Mr. Obama placed my wife in the between us. Perhaps, Mr. Obama thought my wife was attractive. I was OK with that”, laughed Presto.
Presently, he is retired from the Marine Corps as a Lieutenant Colonel. Donald teaches Wing Chun Kung Fu to his students combining his discipline from his military service and the skills he has acquired from Wing Chun since age 14. Currently, he is the father of five children named Alan, Drake, Olivia, Colin, and Ethan. He provides for his family working as a government contractor with the Navy. His wife and kids must be very proud of Donald and they have every right to be so. Lt. Col. Presto shows that persistence and dedication paid off in the end. The lives of the former President and First Lady of the United States of America were at the mercy of this Asian American hero.
(The Stop the Hate project was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.)