FAIRFIELD, OH, USA U.S. Marines LCPL, L CO, 3D BN, 8TH MAR, (RCT-8), 2D MAR DIV, CAMP LEJEUNE, NC AL KARMAH, IRAQ 05/09/2005
Rare was the eye not dabbed Wednesday after a father’s eulogy for his son.
Following a short speech, John Prazynski walked slowly to center court at the Fairfield High School Arena and softly kissed the flag-draped coffin that held his son, Taylor B. Prazynski, who was killed in Iraq May 9, 2005. A crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered for the military funeral of Lance Corporal Prazynski, 20, a 2003 graduate of Fairfield High School.
Taylor Prazynski’s impact was evident Wednesday. Poster boards overflowing with pictures showed him at various ages, caught laughing with friends and family who were sharing in his happiness. Binders placed on a table in the gymnasium were filled with wishes for the family, and with memories, like the Fairfield graduate’s favorite snack — peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches, according to a former baby sitter.
A common theme from the crowd Wednesday was Prazynski’s sense of drive and purpose for the many activities in which he was involved, including athletics, working with severely disabled students and serving his country as a U.S. Marine. Prazynski did something for himself last year. Upon his return home from boot camp, he was baptized by his father and pastor along with his brother Ryan and his grandmother. It was Prazynski’s way of readying himself for an uncertain future, said Andy Ransdell of the Vineyard Community Church.
“When you’re that age, I think you tend to treat life casually,” Ransdell said. “He wasn’t treating it casually. I think he knew the course he was on, and I think his world view had changed. It was very powerful.”
Months after his son’s funeral, on a Friday afternoon, John Prazynski climbed onto his Harley-Davidson for the long, scorching ride from Hamilton, Ohio, to Camp Lejeune. His son’s unit, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, was returning from Iraq, and he had promised Taylor he would be there for the homecoming Sunday.
“I don’t know why I’m here” John said. “I don’t have any sort of agenda, no expectations. My heart tells me to be here to thank each and every one of them for serving. I say thank God for each and every one of them that made it back.”
A woman whose son is in Lima Company ran up to him. “They’re here, they’re here,” she said. Prazynski followed her into the middle of the crowd, where a half-dozen Marines were hugging family members.
He hung back a minute longer, and then someone told the Marines who he was. One after another, they stepped forward to embrace him. “Your son lifted us,” said Taylor’s squad leader, Sergeant Craig Corsi. “He was an awesome, awesome Marine.”
Then he hugged another of Taylor’s friends who was crying, and stepped back, his right hand on his chest. “Your son will always be in our hearts,” he said. “He was special.”
Like father, like son.