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Remembering one of our own

 2nd Lt. Jack Price with wife, Darlene, and children, Dawn, Jack Jr. and Jeff. Courtesy photo.

By Judy Reed

Ten years ago, on Veterans Day, November 11, 2011, a Chinook helicopter landed here in Cedar Springs at Morley Park as part of a ceremony 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 52 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.

2nd Lt. Jack Price, center, gets his wings. Courtesy photo.

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 six men killed in the helicopter crash. Courtesy photo.

The news was devastating to his family.

Jack’s wife and children stayed in the area. Jack Jr. and Jeff both followed in their father’s footsteps and served in the Army.

Wayne 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 a request from then City Manager Christine Burns to the Pentagon, the Chinook helicopter landed at the field located adjacent to Morley Park in downtown Cedar Springs on Nov. 11, 2011.

“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,” Wayne Price told the Post at the time. “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.”

The Chinook helicopter that landed at Skinner Field as part of the Veterans Day ceremonies in 2011.

Hundreds of people were on hand to meet the helicopter when it landed at Skinner Field. Besides city officials, the immediate and extended family of Jack Price were there, including Jack’s daughter, Dawn, and his son Jack Jr. and wife Patty. After the greeting, the public was allowed on the field to take tours of the helicopter and meet the crew, who along with the helicopter, was deployed to Afghanistan December 11, 2011.

Events that took place following the landing of the helicopter featured a special military display at the Cedar Springs Historical Museum and a memorial remembrance service at Veteran’s Memorial Park. 

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