Chase Prasnicki did everything the Army asked of him. He just happened to be in the wrong place at wrong time, his father says.
Almost six months ago the Lexington native was killed while on patrol in Afghanistan. Now, David Prasnicki is asking people to take a moment during the holidays to remember the sacrifices his son and other troops have made.
"People are losing focus on it and yet we still have young kids and soldiers over there dying for us," Prasnicki said.
Chase Prasnicki was 24 when he was killed June 27 by an improvised explosive device four days after landing in Afghanistan. The commemoration of his death will come two days after Christmas.
"We don't know what this Christmas is going to bring. It is that six-month time frame," his father said. "Every day is a new day. I can tell you right now not a day that goes by you don't sit back and try to figure out what happened. He was such a well-trained soldier."
Chase Prasnicki had volunteered to go out on patrol in Afghanistan. The vehicle he was riding in was hit by a bomb.
Prasnicki described his son, who was a first lieutenant, as a friend to anyone he met and a standout athlete. He was also a devoted brother and newlywed.
He was survived by his father, mother Debbie, sister Lauren and brother Tyler, and his wife. He married Emily Nichols in November 2011.
A 2010 West Point grad, he felt by all accounts compelled to serve his country. As a football star at Rockbridge County High School, he had his choice of college teams to play for but settled on playing for the U.S. Military Academy.
"But then I thought 'What's better than fighting for your country? There's no more honorable thing can you do,'" he said in a 2006 Roanoke Times story.
His father said a family trip is planned after the holidays in early January to take some time to "try and clear our minds and our souls."
Then in May when Chase Prasnicki's unit returns to Italy there's a memorial service the family plans to attend. Prasnicki said he hopes it will bring closure.
He said his younger son Tyler graduates from Virginia Military Institute in 2015 and also plans to enter the Army.
"That's what he and his brother talked about right before Chase was deployed," he said.
Prasnicki acknowledged the choice is a gut-wrenching one for him, but he said he wants all of his children to make their own choices.
"It's tough as a parent obviously from where I am and what happened to me, but on the other side I don't want to tell him no," he said. "I just back him up."
During the past six months, Prasnicki said, what has been amazing during the difficult time is the community.
He said the Buena Vista Police Department sent care packages to his son's unit in his honor. Chase's widow organized a large fundraiser in her husband's name.
The Rockbridge high football team also wore helmet stickers with his high school jersey number this season, and the Wildcats coaches donned patches designed in the shape of an Army shield on their game shirts.
This time of year Prasnicki simply asked people continue to remember soldiers, like his son, who have sacrificed for freedom.
"I just think we all need to take moment and reflect and thank them all," he said. "The cost of liberty is not free. It cost me dearly. There's not a better person in this world than Chase Prasnicki. There wasn't. There's a cost to freedom."