By Judy Reed
A special landing of a Chinook helicopter on Friday, November 11, Veterans Day, at Morley Park will be part of activities to honor all veterans. But it came about because a resident wanted to honor his younger brother—2nd Lt. Jack Price—a Cedar Springs man killed 42 years ago, at the age of 28, while taking a Chinook helicopter on a test flight in South Vietnam.
Wayne Price and his younger brother Jack grew up on Cedar Springs Avenue. They were the sons of Frank and Beatrice Price. Wayne enlisted in the Air Force and served from 1955-1959. Jack, who was seven years younger, left school before graduation and enlisted in the Army before Wayne came home.
Jack made a career out of the Army and became a family man. He married his high school sweetheart Darlene, and had three children—Dawn, Jack Jr., and Jeff. Jack did two tours in Viet Nam, and had been in 10 years when tragedy struck.
He had what would have been considered a safe desk job. Jack was a maintenance officer in charge of 120 men and 16 Chinook helicopters on his base. But he also took them for routine test flights. On July 16, 1969, Jack took one of the helicopters on a test flight with six other crewmembers. According to a letter written by his commanding officer, Major Harold Zumbro, the helicopter was on its final approach (not too low) about 300 feet in the air, when it first nosed up, then immediately nosed down, heading straight for the ground. The nose of the aircraft hit first and then fell on its back and exploded. All seven men were killed.
The news was devastating to his family.
Jack’s wife and children still live in the area. Jack Jr. and Jeff both followed in their father’s footsteps and served in the Army.
Wayne has spent many hours researching what happened to his brother, and met several soldiers who served with him. One of those contacts led him to a Chinook instructor pilot, Timothy Miller, based at the Selfridge Army National Guard Base in Michigan. Through both the pilot’s efforts and Burn’s request to the Pentagon, the Chinook helicopter will land at 11:00 a.m. at the field located adjacent to Morley Park in downtown Cedar Springs. It will be on display for the general public following the landing.
“I want this event to pay honor to all those who gave their lives for our country, to those who have served and to all those now serving to keep our country free,” said Wayne Price. “I understandably also want this event to pay special honor to my brother Jack. It’s been 42 years since his death and I miss what could have been.”
Price and his wife June, along with Jack’s widow, Darlene and members from the American Legion Post 287, the Cedar Springs High School Band, the Cedar Springs’ Ministerial Association, the Cedar Springs Historical Society and Dan Brown, uncle of fallen Cedar Springs soldier Timothy Brown, formed the Cedar Springs Veteran’s Memorial Remembrance Committee. They have coordinated events to take place November 11.
Events to take place following the landing of the helicopter at 11:00 a.m. feature a special military display at the Cedar Springs Historical Museum from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. as well as a memorial remembrance service at Veteran’s Memorial Park at 1:00 p.m., including a prelude by the Cedar Springs High School Band; an invocation, an Armistice Day History, guest speaker Tom Noreen, U.S. Army Colonel, a firing squad and benediction.