If you have enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the Hopkins County Veterans Memorial, then you may have noticed the Prisoner of War list engraved on the water wall. The sole POW listed from World War I is my grandfather, Frank Price.
Mr. Frank, as much of the community called him in his latter years, passed away when I was six. I remember my dad telling me about his passing (looking back, I now see how broken-hearted he was). I remember my grandmother leaning over my granddad’s body in the casket after the funeral to kiss his cheek one last time. I remember my sister’s and my favorite game was to hide behind my granddad’s chair and surprise him when he sat down. I remember how smart I thought granddad was because he counted his money with it doubled over (as I child I wondered how he didn’t count it all twice). He taught me to add at a very young age by playing dominoes.
What I did not know until the 1990s was that my granddad had earned a Silver Star Citation. During that time I learned the significance of a Silver Star as well as why he received it.
To fully understand the story, one must know that my granddad was extremely smart but did not have a lot of formal education. He could not read or write. He was small in stature. According to his 1919 discharge papers, he stood just 5′ 3″ tall, although his 1920 discharge papers note that he was 5′ 4 1/2″ tall. He valued hard work and insisted we use our brains. He was tough as nails.
Imagine this young farmer from rural East Texas sent to France to fight the enemy.
According to the Silver Star Citation dated July 8, 1919:
PRICE, FRANK, Private 1st Class. This soldier displayed extraordinary bravery and devotion to duty at Hill 204, northwest of Chateau-Thierry June 5th, 1918. Although this soldier volunteered to help locate enemy positions when the rest of the platoon was lost and unable to proceed, not knowing the direction of the enemy. While on this mission he was taken prisoner but refused to divulge any information regarding American troops in that vicinity. He later escaped with valuable information to the French lines, enabling the French troops to attack the following morning with a good measure of success.
ROBERT L. HOWAZE.
Major General, U. S. Army
Silver Star Citation
My father told me the back story one time. This is what I recall:
Granddad had been captured by the Germans and held for several months. A group of POWs were being moved from one location to another, walking with guards. Granddad pretended that he had to go to the bathroom. He veered off the trail. A guard followed him, demanding/gesturing that granddad return to the others. Granddad continued his pretense of needing to go to the bathroom, so the guard eventually left him alone. Once the guard was gone, granddad got out of there and headed toward the French lines.
Due to the bathroom references, my grandad and/or dad never really wanted the story told. To me, it shows street smarts on the part of my granddad. As they say, “All is fair in love and war.”
For me, my granddad is a hero regardless of his military background. I guess the Silver Star just augments that feeling.
Granddad’s original Silver Star was lost, but a kind friend was able to secure a replacement for my father. That same friend tried to get a French Cross for Military Valour (Croix de Guerre) recognition for my granddad, but that never went through. Not until President Ronald Reagan created a medal for POWs in 1985, did any such citation exist. I am currently trying to secure one for my granddad.
I still have questions, but all of my aunts and uncles are now deceased, so I doubt I will get answers. How many months was granddad held by the Germans? Was he walking in a village, forest, or open road? How far did he have to go to reach the allies once he escaped? Was he immediately sent back to fight or sent home? How was he captured? Why didn’t the guard just shoot him? What were the conditions like for a POW?
If you see Frank Price’s name on the wall, you will now know the story behind his name, or at least as much as I know.
The take-a-way I want you to have from this post is to interview your parents and grandparents. Find out about their experiences. Ask the details. Videotape or tape record their answers. Write it down for future generations. We only know our parents, grandparent and aunts and uncles from the time we can remember, but they have a whole lifetime of experiences we may never know if we don’t ask.
While watching an Elvis movie with my mom not long before she passed away, I asked if she ever saw Elvis in concert. Surprisingly she answered yes, at the Lousiana Hayride when he was first becoming famous.
Ask questions, get recipes, mark/catalogue the family heirlooms, respect your family heritage! If you don’t protect and preserve your family heritage, no one else will.
Bonus Information: According to the Website homeofheroes.com, the Silver Star is the third highest award for combat valor. The website states that of the 30 million American veterans, the estimated “number of Silver Stars awarded World War I to present is somewhere between 100,000 to 150,000.”