HONOR FLIGHT: Dewey Price finds a serene retirement in Nappanee after serving in Vietnam, Bosnia and Iraq
This is the second in a series of stories on local veterans that took part in the Honor Flight Northeast Indiana trip to Washington D.C. on April 25. Coming Wednesday: Area World War II veteran Ken Bosworth details his experiences in the Pacific.
When it comes to explaining some of the most dangerous jobs for modern-day soldiers, running fuel convoys doesn’t immediately raise eyebrows and elicit gasps.
But those more familiar with the war in Iraq know just how intense a seemingly monotonous job was.
Dewey Price of Nappanee was already a 30-year veteran of the Army when he was serving as a platoon sergeant with the 1438th Transportation Company in command of a fuel supply convoy just outside Baghdad in 2005. He joined up in 1962 and served in Vietnam in 1967-68, eventually returning to the United States after being seriously wounded during an attack on his truck.
Price stepped away from the military a few times between Vietnam and Iraq, but always found his way back. He was a member of two of the most storied Army units of all time — the airborne divisions of the 82nd and the 101st. He also served with the 75th Ranger Regiment. His forte? Jumping out of airplanes.
“Sometimes I would jump up to 10 times a day,” said Price, who served as an airborne instructor while seeing action in Vietnam, Bosnia, and Iraq over his military career. “You can’t be a leader unless you lead. I always had fear (jumping), but you can’t show it.”
That day outside Baghdad, Price experienced fear. But his combat training and faith in others took over.
Driving down the road, Price noticed a vehicle to the left of his convoy. As soon as Price radioed to his comrades to keep an eye out, the car exploded.
“There was nothing left of the vehicle and the road was gone,” said Price, reminiscing.
The first vehicle in the convoy had been destroyed in the blast. Immediately, Price ordered the rest of the trucks to split up and rendezvous a mile or so ahead. As RPGs streaked past his vehicle, Price looked for targets while his trucks worked to escape the ambush. Dodging bullets and RPGs while returning fire, Price was able to extract himself and all of the American soldiers under his command from the attack. However, three Pakistanis serving with the convoy were killed.
It didn’t take long for Price’s wife Diane at home to find out about the firefight. Social media being what it is, she was quick to learn some slightly inaccurate details.
“My wife had already gotten a call about me being (in a fight),” said Price.
“There was a Facebook page (for the unit), and I thought he was dead,” added Diane.
The reality was, thankfully, far different. Price emerged unscathed from that action, then returned home soon after. In 2006, he chose to retire rather than head to Afghanistan as part of a deployment.
“I decided that I had had enough,” said Price, who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. “I served under five different presidents, it was time for me to call it quits. I didn’t want to keep pushing my luck.”
The 72-year-old Price, who spent the first 17 years of his life in the southern United States, settled his family in Nappanee upon leaving the military. After tours in war zones and over 5,000 airborne jumps, small-town Indiana was just what he was looking for.
“I chose this place because it is quiet and peaceful,” Price said. “There is not a whole lot of military around here.”
Price was able to take part in Honor Flight Northeast Indiana’s trip to Washington D.C. on April 25. As he took in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and its 58,220 inscribed names, he experienced a myriad of memories of his time in southeast Asia, but also something else.
“I think I have made peace with it,” said Price that day in April. “You can never forget it. When you look at the wall, there are so many people. When I was (in Vietnam), you saw football fields of these men being medevaced back to different facilities.
“It breaks my heart, but by staying involved (in the military) it has brought me peace.”