"But then I thought 'What's better than fighting for your country? There's no more honorable thing can you do,'" Chase Prasnicki [2006 Roanoke Times story; signing coverage with Rockbridge Weekly].
You may have wondered where I have been lately. I have been here, but struggling with a wide range of emotions. For the fourth time this year, I am having to control myself under the weight of another unexpected, and shocking, death.
1LT Stephen Chase Prasnicki grew up in the neighborhood my father and his cousin started in the late 1970s. For a long time it was our farm, the Prasnickis up the hill, and maybe 8 other homes. You knew everyone, we always were having to deal with the fact that the road was unpaved/cows escaping/etc, that our internet came from Charlottesville 1.5 hrs away, but we all loved the beauty and views from our homes by the Blue Ridge and Alleghany mountains. Chase was one of the kids in the neighborhood who I knew from multiple aspects of our lives... from around the neighborhood, to our father's knowing one another from work, to our Mom's hanging out at the Country Club in town during the hot summer months. His Mom would sometimes holler at him, "CHASE?? CHHAAAAASE" if he was out in the yard and had wandered off or was hanging out with a neighbor kid. Mind you, the average lot size was 10+ acres so Debbie was yelling at all three of the kids due to distance. :) Our fellow neighbor, Carrie, had the biggest crush on him and it was super cute, I remember shrieking a bit when she told me. So sweet. I feel like I remember him running around the Club in red swim trunks with his brown hair and the lifeguards having to remind him to WALK around the pool deck so he wouldn't fall over. I love these memories.
Chase was a young man who grew up well-guided, supported but encouraged... pretty much one of the most well-rounded kids I knew from my hometown. He was a football star but there were more than just muscles there. He had a natural ability to be a leader, to encourage others, and was unafraid to show his love for his Mom and siblings. He had these incredible eyes and anytime you saw him look at his Mom it was like they radiated love, respect, adoration. He was "a good kid" as some men like to say. He was so close to his younger siblings, they really kept up with each other even when he got stationed overseas.
His seven-month wedding anniversary was the day he died in Afghanistan.
Chase had just left a few days prior from his base in Bamberg, Germany, where he and his wife Emily had been creating a home, carefully buying furniture and picking up neat items from their fun trips throughout Europe... for his mission in Afghanistan. He volunteered for a patrol and an IED ripped through their vehicle. He was alive when they left for medical help but he did not make it out of that hospital.
I struggle to write this while tears streak down my face. My town has faced so much death, but we have not yet been forced to put a face or name to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. We have been so lucky in that regard. It almost makes me proud to know that he is that person, as he embodied everything that can be so good in a person. I cannot talk about this loss very well to family, as my parents knew him from his birth. Talking about Chase's adventures was the icebreaker my Dad enjoyed using to open up conversations when working with Chase's Dad. He was a kid my Dad even looked up to, as he just... was so good. So kind. So polite. So caring. So endlessly sweet. A charmer. Detail-oriented. Adventuresome. My Dad was proud to know a soldier, a football star. We loved watching for him during the televised Army games.
Yesterday's funeral coverage here and here.
First Lieutenant Stephen Chase Prasnicki, United States Army
4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment,
173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team
Rockbridge County High School, Class of 2006 - 3 year starting quarterback
United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, Class of 2010 - 3 year backup quarterback, defensive safety starter 4th year
Graduate Assistant at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in New Jersey, coaching football, 2010-2011
Field Artillery Basic Officer Leaders Course, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, with Honors, 2011
United States Army Recruiter in Rockbridge County, 2011
United States Army Ranger School, Fort Benning, Georgia, September 2011
United States Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Georgia, October 2011
United States Army Pathfinder School, Germany, February 2012
February 9, 1988 - June 27, 2012