OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
Osan Air Base and the surrounding areas are home to a wide variety of people, but it’s probably not the first place one would look for a Tuskegee Airman.
Retired Master Sgt. James T. Price joined the 477th Bombardment Group in 1945 as a B-25 Mitchell aerial gunner until full military integration in 1949. The former Tuskegee Airman eventually called the Osan area home for years and was a staple in the base enlisted club, regularly seen passing on advice and mentoring Airmen of all ranks and ages before his death in 2008.
“Mr. Price was a phenomenal person,” said Chief Master Sgt. Dave Mahovlich, 694th Intelligence Support Squadron superintendent. “He always told great stories and was constantly taking care of Airmen, even years into his retirement.”
Mahovlich’s first assignment at Osan was as a senior airman in 1993, and has spent nine total years here, frequently seeing Price during his non-consecutive short tours. While the people stationed here change constantly, Price was a constant presence, bringing extra continuity to the area.
Price’s final year of active duty service saw him managing the brand-new Challenger Club, which would eventually become the modern enlisted club. His years of service to the Osan community and special link between Price and the club led base leadership to dedicate a memorial in his honor outside of the club in 2013: a stone eagle atop a column.
Unfortunately, the memorial was discovered with one of the eagle’s wings broken off in the fall of 2015.
Mahovlich immediately reached out to his friend, Chief Master Sgt. David Plouff, 694th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group chief enlisted manager, and started working out how they could fix the damaged statue.
“Some people lament that we don’t have as much history or culture as the other services, but if we take no action when our culture actually is damaged, then we’re as much to blame as anyone for our culture evaporating,” said Plouff.
The Osan Chief’s Group quickly backed the idea to replace the statue, but it would have to be financed entirely through donations and fundraising.
Groups and organizations from all facets of the base came together to help re-memorialize Price, including large contributions from the Team Osan Spouses Club and the 731st Air Mobility Squadron. Nearly one year after it was damaged, a brand new, larger statue was erected in its place.
A re-dedication ceremony was held in front of the club, with dozens of Airmen and Team Osan community members in attendance.
“The memorial [is] that of an eagle, befitting of an Airman that soared so high in service to his nation and its Airmen,” said Col. Andrew Hansen, 51st Fighter Wing commander. “Just as Jim took of care of Airmen, Airmen stepped up and stepped in to take care of what represents him.”
The crowd cheered as the sheet was lifted and the new statue was unveiled, revealing the nearly twice-as-large eagle.
“It’s an honor to even think we were able to make this happen for Jim,” said Mahovlich. “He gave so much to us, and we were able to give back to his memory.”
The inscription on the memorial reads:
Dedicated to Mr. Jim Price, Tuskegee Airman
“It is not the honor that you take with you,
But the heritage you leave behind.”