Two among 1,000 connected in death


War: Killed Tuesday in Iraq, the men became part of the sad statistic.

September 12, 2004|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. - Timothy E. Price and Clarence Adams III both grew up here, separated by just a few years and the few miles between their suburban neighborhoods. On Tuesday, both men died in Iraq, bonded by the sad statistic that their deaths that day pushed U.S. military deaths in the war past 1,000.

They served in different Army units and, by all accounts, did not know each other. Their deaths came after separate incidents on a day of widespread fighting between U.S. forces and insurgents in parts of Baghdad and Fallujah that left seven soldiers dead.

The deaths marked a somber milestone in the Iraq war and focused a spotlight on soldiers whose names might otherwise have blended into the semi-anonymous count of wartime deaths. The thousandth soldier became every soldier.

He became Army 1st Lt. Tim Price, 25, who was serving his second tour in Iraq and believed strongly in why he was there. "He was doing fine. He knew he was doing something important for his country. There was no doubt in his mind," said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Richard "Rock" Roszak, director of alumni programs for the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech, where a wreath was placed on the school's war memorial Wednesday night and taps was played for Price at dusk.

And he became Army Spc. Clarence Adams, 28, who turned to the military after a college football career at Virginia Union University sputtered. The Army was a good fit, said his father, Clarence Adams Jr., but in the past month he had sensed that his son - married with six children - was growing weary of the fight in Iraq: "He wanted to get out, he said, because he was tired of seeing dead bodies piled up."

The number of U.S. deaths in Iraq does not rival World War II, when more Americans were killed on D-Day alone. In Vietnam, the final death toll exceeded 58,000. But the conflict in Iraq has claimed three times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Persian Gulf War, and all but 138 of the deaths came after major combat operations were declared over in spring 2003.

In some places, last week's thousandth death provided a touchstone for the war's critics or political fodder for an election year. Here, it brought only a deep grief and the horrible ritual twice more of a knock at the door and the news delivered by military officers.

"It didn't mean anything to me other than the fact I lost my son," said Clarence Adams Jr., 58, a pipe fitter with the Department of Veteran Affairs who served in the military during the Vietnam War but was stationed in Europe. "My daughter-in-law lost her husband, and those children lost their father. So right now, I don't know what we do. My son's gone, and a lot of other sons are going to be gone."

The elder Adams coped with the loss last week by going to work and to a practice session of a Little League football team that he coaches on the western edge of the city, where parents and other volunteer coaches stood in the sticky, late-summer heat and offered their condolences.

Not far away, at the home of John and Kathy Price in Midlothian, Va., a half-dozen cars were parked outside and a sagging camouflage folding chair sat on the front porch. Family members said they were too stunned by the news to talk, but John Price issued a long statement, filling almost two pages with single-spaced, typewritten memories of his son.

"Tim was our first child, and he was a miracle to us. We were blessed to have him as a son, and we are crushed to have lost him," he wrote. "During the first tour [in Iraq] we would hold our breath every time we heard of soldiers dying in battle and wonder if it was Tim or his men that had been involved, and then a few days or a week later, with nobody from the Army coming to pass on bad news and perhaps a quick e-mail from Tim, and we could exhale."

Tim Price saw the Army as his calling, his father said. After graduating from Clover Hill High School in Chesterfield County, just outside Richmond, the younger Price enrolled at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va., where he rose fast in the school's Corps of Cadets program.

During his senior year, Price served as a company commander and was responsible for as many as 60 younger cadets. Roszak recalled Price as a gentle but unflappable leader.

"He did right, no matter what the cost. You want your leaders to lead by example, and that was him," Roszak said last week. "I had daughters, but if I'd had a son, I'd want it to be somebody like Tim Price."

Price graduated in 2001 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army in May 2002. About a year later, he started his first tour in Baghdad, helping train Iraqi police as part of his assignment with the Army's 709th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, V Corps stationed in Hanau, Germany.

A former Virginia Tech classmate recounted last week how Price arrived at the scene after the Khadra police station was hit by a car bomb late last October. As others barked orders, Price calmly asked: "What can I do to help you?"

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