NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
May 11, 2005
DoD Identifies Marine Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Private First Class Stephen P. Baldwyn, 19, of Saltillo, Mississippi
Lance Corporal Taylor B. Prazynski, 20, of Fairfield, Ohio
Both Marines died May 9,2005. Baldwyn died as a result of wounds received from an explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Nasser Wa Salaam, Iraq. Prazynski died from an explosion while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Karmah, Iraq.
Both Marines were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
16 May 2005:
On Wednesday, hundreds are expected to pay their last respects to a local Marine killed in action in Iraq.
A marine honor guard escorted the body of Lance Corporal Taylor Prazynski to Butler County (Ohio) on Friday.
Prazynski, of Liberty Township, Ohio, was killed by shrapnel during combat in Al Anbar province last Monday.
The 20-year-old graduated from Fairfield High School two years ago.
The visitation and funeral for Prazynski will be held at his alma mater.
Visitation begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
A funeral with military honors is set for 3 p.m Wednesday.
Prazynski will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington D.C. on Friday.
Community honors fallen hero
Fairfield graduate’s funeral draws 1,000 mourners
Thursday, May 19, 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.
“The day he left for boot camp, I told him he was my hero and that I loved him,” John Prazynski said. “For the next 13 weeks I felt lost without him. We didn’t really know the impact that he had.”
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.
Many knew the Marine who was killed in the Al Anbar Province, Iraq, by wounds he suffered from an explosion while involved in heavy combat May 9. Others, however, had different connections.
“I’m here to pay my respects for a fallen brother,” said Gerry Haas of West Chester Twp., a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. “Even though he’s a much younger brother, he’s still a brother. My country said I needed to go, and I went. I’m sure that Taylor felt the same way.”
Fairfield Twp. resident and friend of the Prazynskis, Kate Downie, and her grandson, Chris Campbell, who graduated and played football at Fairfield with Taylor Prazynski, stood in line for more than two hours at the visitation Tuesday. They returned Wednesday to pay their final respects.
“When I lost my husband, I thought it was hard, but I couldn’t imagine losing my child or grandchild,” Downie said. “It’s devastating.”
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.
“This was what he wanted to do,” Campbell said. “He did it for the people over there, and he did it for the people here.”
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.”
The funeral Wednesday included full military honors, with a 21-gun salute and a presentation of the Purple Heart, which was given to Prazynski’s family along with a tightly folded American flag.
Prazynski will be interred at 2 p.m. Friday in Arlington National Cemetery. The family asks that donations be sent in lieu of flowers to the Taylor Prazynski Memorial Fund. Available at all Fifth-Third Bank branches, the fund will be used for Fairfield High School graduates wounded in war.
15 August 2005:
On 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.
Never mind that Taylor himself wouldn't make it. The 20-year-old lance corporal was killed May 9. The shrapnel from an insurgent mortar shell interrupted his freshly organized life, the plans to get an apartment and enroll in college. He's buried in Arlington National Cemetery now.
“I don't know why I'm here,” his father said Sunday afternoon, standing in a crowd of festive parents carrying “Welcome Home” signs and balloons, girlfriends and wives dressed to turn heads. “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.”
First he had to find the Marines from Taylor's unit. It wasn't going to be easy: He had never met them, and the crowd was big.
About 900 Marines from the 3rd Battalion were coming home after a harsh seven months in Anbar Province, the most dangerous territory in Iraq for U.S. forces.
It was a complex homecoming, as it must be when you return from such place and after doing such a job. There were all those happy family members and friends waiting. But while in Anbar Province, where they were stationed near Fallujah, the unit lost nine Marines killed in action and about were 150 wounded. That's odds of 1 in 6 of being wounded, 1 in 100 of being killed.
For none was the homecoming more complicated, those odds more obvious, than John Prazynski, 43, a soft-spoken real estate agent who calls other men “sir.”
As late as last week, he was thinking about staying home so as to not turn a happy occasion somber for the other Marines and their families, but Taylor's company commander had called and told him he should be there.
“There are a bunch of Marines who want to talk to you,” the captain had said.
So he and a friend, Dewey Asbrock, climbed on their motorcycles and made the two-day trip. In one of Prazynski's saddlebags he had packed a plastic bag of photos of Taylor. Taylor in his high school football uniform. Taylor jumping into a pool. Taylor at various ages in his dad's Air Force uniforms.
When he arrived at Lejeune, though, Prazynski wasn't quite sure what to do. There are no guidelines, no clear role in such homecomings for parents of those who have been killed.
He sat in the steamy base gym — homecoming headquarters — for a while, eating a hamburger, talking to other parents, and looking at a list of the nine men killed in action. Taylor's name was fourth. Then he wandered the crowd awhile. Several parents walked up to offer condolences and to thank him for coming.
Taylor fought for freedom
He came without a media entourage, without making a big deal of his presence. But it was hard not to see Prazynski as a quiet counterpoint to Cindy Sheehan, the protester and mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who has been in the news for her vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch.
Prazynski's politics are different. He supports the war in Iraq and Bush. But he was loath to criticize Sheehan.
“I guess all I can say is God bless her,” he said. “I don't know what her agenda is. I don't know is this is going to help her heal, but I'm certainly not going to say that she shouldn't be allowed to do what she feels or say what she thinks. My son died so that she could do that.”
Prazynski said that he's not an emotional man but these days he has spells when he cries uncontrollably.
But he's determined, he said, that grieving won't take over. “I'll never forget him, but I can't grieve my whole life.”
About 8:15 p.m., a cheer went up from the crowd and it surged forward. Prazynski hung back, still uncertain.
Then a small group walked up, several in T-shirts with Taylor's photo. It was Taylor's mother, Claudia Curati-Focke, and three of his friends, Denise, Brandon and Chelsea Kaiser, all from Fairfield, Ohio. They had gotten lost on the sprawling base and almost hadn't made it in time.
“These Marines walking around, I've done a double take three or four times,” he said. “The build is the same…”
A few minutes later, another shout went up from the crowd. Another group of Marines was coming.
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, Sgt. Craig Corsi. “He was an awesome, awesome Marine.”
Then he hugged Curati-Focke, 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.”
Prazynski's soft voice faded almost to nothing. “I appreciate you guys and what you did,” he said.
Grief Compels Marine's Dad to Support War
13 May 2006
FAIRFIELD, Ohio – A soft-spoken suburban real-estate broker, John Prazynski didn't consider himself political and never expected to become a public figure, much less a pro-war activist. But in the year since his son Taylor, a Marine, died in Iraq, Prazynski has devoted much of his time to supporting the troops through fundraisers, two trips to Camp Lejeune, Nierh Carolina, and interviews backing the war effort.
“I could easily have gone the other way,” Prazynski said. He says his activism is a tribute to his son, trying to “make something positive happen out of something so negative. That's what Taylor would want us to do.”
Marine Lance Corporal Taylor Prazynski, 20, died May 9, 2005, of shrapnel wounds from a mortar shell that exploded near him during combat in Anbar Province. In his last phone calls, the fun-loving, popular man who had spent much of his senior year of high school helping special-needs students told his father he wanted to become a special education teacher.
Since his son's death, Prazynski, 43, has been interviewed repeatedly about the war while organizing a series of 5-kilometer runs and motorcycle rides to raise money for scholarships for students who attend his son's high school.
“I do this to keep Taylor's memory alive,” Prazynski said.
On opening day of the baseball season in Cincinnati, he joined President Bush and two wounded soldiers on the field in pregame ceremonies. Prazynski said he wanted to thank Bush for his support “and give him two thumbs up with his positive stance on security, military and veterans' issues.”
The former Air Force tech school instructor shares the pain — but not the viewpoint — of Cindy Sheehan, who became a high-profile war protester after her son Casey was killed in Iraq in April 2004.
“She's grieving, as we are,” Prazynski said. “She's chosen to direct her energies in a different direction. I say God bless her.
“My son died for the Constitution that allows her to do what she's doing. Her son died, and God bless him, too, to support and defend the Constitution that gives her the right to speak freely, and I'm all for that right.
“I just don't think that I clearly understand what her agenda is.”
Sheehan, who helped found Gold Star Families for Peace, has called for the impeachment of Bush, whom she says duped America into invading Iraq.
Prazynski understands the constant hurt of losing a child, and why such a loss has turned some grieving parents against the war. Even now, he said, “Every day is painful.”
The father searched the Internet and found several groups he felt he could support, but chose Impact Player Partners because it was based in nearby Cincinnati. The nonprofit group, an advocate for wounded and disabled veterans, invited Prazynski to take part in the opening day presentation with Bush.
Prazynski also works with the Washington-based Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors and hopes to raise donations for its activities by running in the Marine Corps Marathon in October.
“We're so grateful for his participation,” said TAPS founder Bonnie Carroll. “It's an incredible opportunity to honor and help all those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.”
Prazynski's last trip to Camp Lejeune — some 700 miles on a motorcycle — was another step.
“That's part of the healing process, to meet parents of other Marines and soldiers who died and just be able to talk to them,” he said.
On his way home, Prazynski made a spur-of-the-moment 300-mile side trip.
“I went up to Arlington (National Cemetery) and visited Taylor's grave, and the other Cincinnati fallen heroes and the other men he served with. That's part, I guess, of how I deal with things,” he said.
“I spent most of Saturday afternoon in Arlington. It's just peaceful; I could probably sit there for days, seriously.”
PRAZYNSKI, TAYLOR BRADLEY
- LCPL US MARINE CORPS
- DATE OF BIRTH: 11/12/1984
- DATE OF DEATH: 05/09/2005
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8111
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard