Q&A: Fairfield father recalls impact of Marine killed in action in 2005

John Prazynski, whose son was killed in action in 2005 while serving in the Marines, said aid he and his family “have truly been blessed” because of the positive impact his son has had on others, a message shared by many on Veterans Day.

“If there’s anything I can say about this whole journey, or if there’s one word to describe me, I hope it’s gratitude. We are grateful for how the Fairfield, Greater Cincinnati, and the veteran’s communities, in all aspects, have basically surrounded us, supported us and helped us get through this,” Prazynski said.

Prazynski, a Fairfield Air Force veteran and Gold Star father of Marine Lance Cpl. Taylor Prazynski lost his son on May 9, 2005. The younger Prazynski was killed in action in a mortar attack while serving in Iraq.

Taylor Prazynski, a 2003 Fairfield High School graduate, joined the Marine Corps in 2003. In the USMC, he became an infantryman. In 2004, he served as part of the peace-keeping force in Haiti. In January 2005, he was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Prazynski was born on November 12, 1984 at the medical center at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where his father, John, was stationed from 1981 to 1985. The family lived in base housing on an Air force Base in Illinois from 1985 to 1989. Taylor grew up playing with military kids and he saw his dad get dressed in a uniform every day to go to work. In 1989, the family moved back to Fairfield, and as a young man, Taylor was determined to be a Marine. His life was truly an inspiration.

He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

John Prazynski recently answered our questions about his family’s sacrifice and the year’s after.

Q: Did you have any conversations with Taylor about why he wanted to serve our country?

A: As you remember on Sept. 11, 2001, we watched our world change. I distinctly remember Taylor and his brother, Ryan, sitting on the couch, having a conversation about what our nation’s response should be to such a horrific attack on our own soil in New York, The Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. I know that Taylor remembered living on the base, and seeing all of our neighbors in their uniforms, and all of the kids being military kids.

The following year, as a junior in high school, he came to us and told us he was going to join the military when he graduated. We encouraged him to explore all of his options, but he said he wanted to be a Marine. Throughout that next year, I made sure he spoke to all of the different recruiters to make sure that he had good information to make a healthy decision, but he was just absolutely determined that he was going to be a Marine.

Q: Do you feel like he made the decision on his own?

A: Without a doubt. He met that recruiter at Fairfield High School, and he really loved and respected him. I don’t think somebody does something like that on a whim. I think that they really either feel called, or compelled to follow that versus, “Hey' I think I’m just going to go do this.”… I know that he was glad to serve and he loved everything about the Marine Corps – the grit, the grind, and being out in the field.

Q: Can you tell us about what he was like?

A: Taylor was a really good kid in high school. One of his teachers at Fairfield High School, Mr. Gary Staggs, asked him if he would help out in the special needs classroom. That began something in him that changed him, too. He was working with kids who grew up differently than him, who, unfortunately, didn’t have a lot of the same opportunities he had. He enjoyed being in that classroom, helping those kids, and the teachers, and every one of those teachers really grew to love him. He was just a good kid and a fun kid.

He was not a scholar, but he played football at Fairfield. He was not the largest or most athletic kid, but he loved every moment of that. He and his brother, Ryan, both ran track, and that was always something that was fun to go watch. He was known and loved by many students at Fairfield High School. Many of the families here, where he had friends, grew to know, and love him. It’s been hard on everybody. Even 15 years later, I still see people who want to share their Taylor stories with me.

Q: Why do you feel like it’s important for all of us, every day, to remember those who have served – like you, Taylor, and so many other individuals and families?

A: Service to our nation is a purposeful call in my view. Our freedom needs defending, and so, for those who answer that call and go, they should be recognized, because it’s basically, what, one percent of our population, maybe that serve? It’s something along those lines.

Q: What would you hope to convey through Taylor’s story. What word of encouragement or hope would you offer others?

A: I want to encourage everybody to be aware of the veterans and their issues, and to be able to honor the veterans and the Gold Star families.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to highlight?

A: The Fairfield Township Veterans Memorial at Heroes Park that’s being planned and started. It would be good to bring awareness to it. www.fairfieldtwpvets.com is their website, and it’s really going to be a memorial and a place for veterans to gather, for all the military members, from all the years of Fairfield Twp.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for communities to have a veterans' memorial, not only in Fairfield Twp., but in other cities across the country?

A: We live in such freedom, and we don’t always realize the freedoms we have. So, to have these things, and to be aware that there’s a price or a cost of freedom, I think is vital for future generations.

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