Updated: Nov 18, 2021
Ron Price, a Vietnam veteran from La Cygne, looks for names on the Vietnam War Memorial wall that honors the more than 58,000 men and women killed in that war. It was the first time he had visited the wall. (Submitted photo)
A man dressed in a colonial-era clothing announced the arrival of a flight of veterans of the Korean, Vietnam and other wars from Kansas at the Baltimore/Washington International airport.
“God bless our veterans,” modern-day town crier proclaimed loudly as he rang a large handbell. “God bless America.”
As he made the announcement, the people in the terminal stopped what they were doing and gave a standing ovation to the men and women disembarking from their flight. It was an experience a La Cygne man will never forget.
Ron Price was recently accepted by the Parsons High School Honor Flight project to fly to Washington, D.C. Although it was only two days away from home, for him it was the trip of a lifetime.
Linn County Journal readers likely remember Ron Price from an article we ran in August about him being honored for his nearly five decades service as a sports official for high school athletics. Shortly after that story ran, Price was notified that he had been selected for the Honor Flight.
On Sept. 21, Price joined a contingent of veterans from Parsons, Chetopa, and St. Paul, Kan., and boarded a plane for the trip. Each of the veterans was accompanied by a “guardian,” a Parsons High School student who was assigned to be a companion and guide throughout the journey.
The Honor Flight organization paid for the whole trip including airfare, meals and a hotel room. Students from the high school helped raise money for the flight. Price decided to apply for the program and was quickly accepted.
Price visits the World War II Memorial with Parsons High School guardians Morgan Vaughn, left, and Jazzy Palmer, who was assigned to him. Students help raise money for the honor flights. (Submitted photo)
A U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, Price had never been to Washington, D.C. His tour of duty lasted nearly a year, and he was stationed for a time west of Chu Lai before being reassigned to a post west of Da Nang. Both of those posts were in central Vietnam.
“It’s been 50 years since I was in Vietnam, “ he said, adding that he had served in with Company B, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry of the 196th Infantry Brigade. As a reminder of his service, Price has served in color guards for local Memorial Day events as well as participated in Veterans Day activities in schools.
After the warm airport reception, the group traveled to Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then it was off to the recently completed World War II monument.
And then came the Vietnam Memorial wall with more than 58,000 names of men and women who died in that war.
“There were a lot of lives cut short,” he said. “It was a bad deal.”
Price took some time to make a couple of pencil-and-paper etchings of names he would send to friends who lost loved ones in the war.
He noticed a man playing a saxophone over toward the Lincoln Memorial, which is near the Vietnam wall. Accompanied by his student guardian, Jazzy Palmer, and her guardian friend Morgan Vaughn, they asked the man to play “God Bless America” so the three of them could sing along. But the man didn’t know the song.
However, the sax player did know “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem, and as the man played, Price and the girls sang the song. He said the song seemed very appropriate for what he was experiencing.
The following day, Price and his traveling companions boarded the plane and headed home.
“It was a pretty unique and heartwarming time,” he said.
Half a century ago when Price returned from Vietnam, there were no parades with marching bands and applauding crowds. It was individual soldiers arriving home unannounced. And it was during a time when many in this country disapproved of the war.
However, he pointed out, the soldiers were just following orders and, in many cases, just trying to stay alive. He said he was grateful for the opportunity to make the trip.
“It was a well-well-deserved ‘thank you,’” Price said. “What we went through, it changed people’s minds.”