I go by the moniker of Townie 76 because I grew up in Lexington and attended VMI.
For those who have visited Lexington and Rockbridge County it is an interesting amalgamation of town (those who grew up in Lexington or Rockbridge County or have a family connection to Lexington or Rockbridge County), gown (professors at either VMI, Washington and Lee, or Southern Virginia), and come here’s (usually retirees or folks of sufficient means who like the area).
Anyone who attends either VMI or Washington and Lee who lives in Lexington or Rockbridge County are townies. Townies stick together, whether they live in Lexington or have moved away. Last night the City and County came together to remember Chase Prasnicki. Chase was a Townie. Chase graduated from Rockbridge County High School, attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant, he was killed in Afghanistan in the last couple of days.
Rockbridge County and Lexington are conservative, not in a political sense, but in a cultural sense. They are patriotic, as my late father use to say, “ours is not a flag waving patriotism, we just get things done when our nation calls.” Serving in the armed forces has always been regarded as an honorable calling in Rockbridge County. In part because of its conservatism, in part because of VMI, in part because of the Scotch Irish culture. Chase’s father works at the VMI Foundation. I have known him for years, while not a native, David Prasnicki and his family have accepted and live their lives by the values of Rockbridge County. Chase service to his nation highlights that fact.
Chase was the first one from Rockbridge County killed in either Iraq or Afghanistan. A former Quarterback for the Rockbridge County High School Wildcats, he unlike many of his classmates chose to attend West Point—where there is an obligation to be commissioned in the United States Army. He chose to embark on a career where he would be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice.
For eleven years, the Armed Forces of the United States have been involved in war, where on a given day one could die. Chase knew this when he entered West Point. For most of the graduates of Rockbridge County High School serving in the military was the furthest thing from their mind.
Since the wars began less than 1% of the U. S. population has been involved in the war. Which means out of a nation of 350 million, less than 3 million have borne the burden of this war. The rest have gone on living our lives and for the most part unaware the war was going on.
Chase chose to serve, to go where the Army sent him. He will return less than a month after leaving for Afghanistan. He will arrive at Dover Air Force Base. He will be met by an Army Honor Guard who with reverence will carry his body off the C17 and he will be afforded all the honors a nation can give those who chose to serve and who paid the ultimate price.
Last night he was called a hero. An overused word it has lost its true meaning. To those gathered last night Chase is a hero. To his fellow soldiers, he was a soldier, who like my late father said, “just get things done when our nation calls.” Kipling, perhaps better than anyone, understood better than anyone the relationship of the soldier (in British vernacular Tommy) and society, when he wrote,
I WENT into a public ‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, ” We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, go away ” ;
But it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-’alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, wait outside “;
But it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul? ”
But it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes ” when the drums begin to roll
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes, ” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be’ind,”
But it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!
In memory of 1st Lieutenant Chase Prasnicki, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vicenza Italy.