ROGERSVILLE – Lewis E. “Luke” Price was interred beside his parents in Rogersville's Highland Cemetery on Friday afternoon following a graveside service conducted by the Tennessee Army National Guard as members of his extended family and a host of area residents watched and listened.
It had taken more than 70 years to return the Hawkins County native home for burial in his native soil.
Assisting the National Guard funeral honors teams during the 2 p.m. Friday service were members of the Hawkins County Color Guard and other veterans groups.
Skies looked threatening during the graveside service, but rain did not fall despite a reported 80-percent chance of rain.
The service was led by a Tennessee Army National Guard chaplain and featured the firing of a three-volley rifle salute by National Guard soldiers the playing of the military hymn “Taps” and the folding and presentation of the flag that had draped his coffin to his granddaughter.
The Hawkins Count Color Guard presented the U.S., Tennessee and U.S. Army colors during the ceremony.
Also taking part in the service was Tennessee Commissioner of Veterans Services Many-Bears Grinder, who presented to PFC Price's family members memorial Tennessee flags a procalamation honoring PFC Price and personal letters fro Gov. Bill Haslam.
In January 2011, Governor Bill Haslam appointed Many-Bears Grinder as the Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services. She is the first woman to serve the State of Tennessee in this capacity.
In order to accept the appointment, Grinder retired from the Tennessee Army National Guard as a Colonel with more than 35 years of service. The Operation Enduring Freedom combat veteran served in Afghanistan as the Head of Secretariat for the International Police Coordination Board.
Many military veterans were seen watching and listening to the military graveside service for PFC Price. Among them was Katherine Groff, commander of American Legion Post 21 and other state American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars officers.
PFC Price Died in 1944
Killed in 1944 during combat with the Nazi army in a frozen German forest, Price was not found until a many months after his death and he was buried as an “unknown” in an American military cemetery in Europe
But earlier this year, Private First Class Lewsis E. Price's remains were identiified after his DNA matched that of a dniece and nephews here.
His niece, Carolyn Carroll, of Bean Station, said during an earlier interview that her uncle was married and had son named Ronnie when he died in 1944 in heavy fighting between German and American forces in a dense German forest. His widow subsequently remarried and both she and the couple's son have since passed away. Carolyn said.
As a result, Luke's closest Hawkins County relatives were believed to be his nieces and nephews, according to Carolyn, who noted that her older brother, Leon, who lives in Morristown, got the ball rolling and that she and Gene Price, of Rogersville, are alsocamong his closest living relatives, according to the DoD. All three submitted DNA samples to the U.S. military.
But unknown to the Rogersville-area relatives of PFC Lewis E. Price was that he also had a granddaughter named Rhonda Price, in Bean Station. Rhonda is the daughter of Lewis E. Price's late son, Ronnie Price. Ronnie had passed away about 10 years ago, family members said.
During a Tuesday, Nov. 20, interview, Carolyn Carroll said Lewis E. “Luke” Price was her mother's brother and that she had known little about him other than that he had been declared dead by the Army during WWII.
Soon, they learned that their DNA samples had been found to be a “prefect match” for the remains believed to be those of Lewis E. Price and, as a group, they asked the military to return their uncle's remains to Hawkins County for burial.
But the miricles didn't end there, Carolyn said, noting that she remembered that Lewis Price's mother and father had kept a burial plot – possibly for him – beside their graves in Highland Cemetery. After some research, it was confired that the plot beside the graves of his father and mother – Columbus C, “Clum” Price and Sallie Yount Price – was still available in Highland Cemetery. Lewis was laid to rest beside his parents in his native soil as a result.
Lewis E. Price's remains had been flown to Tri-Cities Airport on Friday, Dec. 7, and subsequently returned to Christian-Sells Funeral Home in Rogersville as family members watched.
A team of soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky., accompanied PFC Price's remains to Rogersville from the airport and placed his coffin on a bier inside the funeral home chapel gave his gramdaigjter, Rhonda Price, one of PFC Price's two military “dog tags” (metal identification tags). The other tag remained attached to PFC Price's wooden coffin.