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View a eulogy for John Stalker Price, USMA '64, who passed away on April 4, 2018.

John Stalker Price

West Point, 1964

Be Thou At Peace

Posted by Sam Burney on April 9, 2018:

John Stalker Price
Most of us live relatively ordinary lives...but then there was Jack Price! There was nothing ordinary about Jack; his life story could provide the script for a great movie. He was my classmate and my friend, but that hardly makes me expert on Jack's life. He had lots of friends...many of whom crossed paths with him more frequently than I.

Like most of the Class of 1964, during First Class year I heard Jack was keeping a large Boa Constrictor in his cadet room. Since our rooms were open for inspection throughout the day, it didn't seem possible. Out of curiosity, I went over to the 8th Division (Jack was on the Brigade Staff at the time) to check it out. Sure enough, Jack had the aforementioned snake, and he was keeping it in his room. He told me he wrapped "her"...yes, Jack had snuck a female into the barracks...around the radiator when he left for class each morning. Apparently, the snake was content to stay coiled there throughout the day, and the Tactical Department was never the wiser.

About a year and a half later, we were all new lieutenants, and Jack was serving as an Infantry Platoon Leader with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Okinawa. The 173rd was one of the first units deployed to Vietnam after the big buildup was announced in June of 1965. His unit was equipped with the 'latest and greatest' new weapon...the Colt AR-15 rifle which would later become the M-16. When Jack's unit arrived in VN, they began to experience problems with the new weapons...a major problem was the fact that they were operating in a filthy environment without enough cleaning rods for the smaller caliber weapon. In those days, the logistical tail of the military had not caught up with the sudden troop buildup. Supplies were being rushed into the country, but once they were off-loaded at the Port of Saigon, there was no way to move them around the country rapidly enough to clear the docks. The port became severely back-logged, and units throughout VN were keeping people in Saigon to 'scrounge' the supplies they needed. The informal supply system was working much better than the formal one.

One platoon of the 173rd Airborne had a better method for solving supply problems. They had 2LT Jack Price! Jack had no way of getting to the Port of Saigon, but the mail system was working, and he knew someone at Colt, so he sent a request for cleaning rods. His friend came through, and it was not long before boxes of cleaning rods for the M-16 made it to the 173rd. Jack Price had developed a reputation with his troops as a guy who could get things done!

In the Fall of '65 one of his men came to him with a seemingly impossible request. The young man had found an advertisement in Playboy Magazine for a Lifetime Subscription to the magazine. At the time, there were Playboy Clubs in many major cities around the country, and the magazine, as a marketing ploy, offered to have a Playboy Bunny (a cocktail waitress at one of their local clubs) personally deliver a Lifetime Subscription to anyone who purchased it. Jack was told the men of his platoon had taken up a collection for a Lifetime Subscription, and they wanted him to see that the magazine followed through on the offer.

Not a problem! Jack wrote to Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, and told him what his men were requesting. The wheels began to turn back in the 'U.S. of A.' and before long it was announced that JoAnn Collins, the reigning Playmate of the Year, would be delivering a Lifetime Subscription to a platoon of airborne troopers in Vietnam. It was a publicity bonanza...for Playboy and for the Army!

Before the promised arrival, Jack was badly wounded in a firefight with the Viet Cong. He was taken to the 3rd Surgical Hospital at Binh Hoa for treatment prior to being evacuated to Brooke Army Hospital, Ft Sam Houston TX. At the time, my unit was stationed not far from the 3rd Surgical Hospital. When I learned Jack was there, I went over to see him. He was in remarkably good spirits given the fact that he was facing the prospect of losing an arm. His medical condition seemed to be the least of his worries...he was too excited about the prospect of presenting the Playmate of the Year to his platoon when she arrived with the Lifetime Subscription. He had already informed the medical staff he was not going anywhere until he fulfilled the promise to his men. It was classic Jack Price!!

A week or so later, Ms Collins arrived in country, to great fanfare, and Jack fulfilled his promise. It was to be the beginning of a life-long friendship between Jack, JoAnn Collins, and Hugh Hefner...recall my earlier comment about Jack Price having LOTS of friends!

It was at Brooke Army Hospital that Jack met his wife-to-be, Sam. Talk about the perfect match for Jack...Sam was all of that! She was a nurse at the hospital, and she was every bit as adventurous, and 'ballsy,' as her husband-to-be. With Sam keeping an eye out for his well-being, Jack remained at Brooke for an extended period of treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation. Fortunately, his arm was saved; unfortunately, his wounds were serious enough that he could not continue his career as an Infantry officer, and he was medically retired. The Army lost a rising star!

Following his retirement, he was a gem-trader for a while...Jack was never one for ordinary lifestyles...but his lasting contribution to our class and to West Point began when he became a prime mover behind the founding and rapid growth of West Point-Org, the on-line networking organization that has served to connect all classes, clubs, parent groups, teams, etc, that share the common bond of West Point. There is a large group of volunteers who have made West Point-Org what it is today, but Jack Price was a key cog in a large wheel.

When our class graduated on June 3rd of 1964, and headed off in 565 different directions, we could not have imagined that some 50 plus years later most of us would be communicating with each other on a regular basis. West Point-Org is the reason we are able to do it. Rather amazing in its own right, but mind-boggling when you consider more than 200 other USMA interest groups are similarly connected. In the late 19th Century, General George Cullum created what we now know of as the "Register of Graduates." It was a remarkable undertaking that served to create a repository of information relating to every alumnus of USMA, and it provided the foundation for what came to be known as the "Association of Graduates, USMA."

More than a century later, a small group of dedicated individuals used modern technology to connect not only graduates of USMA, but their friends and families as well. West Point-Org is an amazing organization, one that is staffed almost entirely by volunteers. After more than 20 years, the organization has only 2 salaried employees and operates on an annual budget of less than $200K. Funding for the operation is entirely self-generated, primarily thru two annual fund drives. West Point-Org is truly the legacy Jack Price has left behind. All who have a love for West Point owe him their gratitude. His passing has left some very large paratrooper boots to be filled!

John Stalker Price...innovator, adventurer, entrepreneur, free spirit, classmate, leader, friend...he was our version of "A Man in Full." We mourn him, and we will miss him. Let it be said, "Well Done, Jack!! Be Thou at Peace!"

Sam Burney '64

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