Customers at a civilian barber shop wouldn’t typically expect to see a military awards ceremony unfolding, but a few weeks ago, former soldier and local barber Willie Price unofficially was awarded a campaign medal he should have gotten 23 years ago.
Price, owner of Willie’s Ebony and Ivory Barber Shop on Gen. Screven Way, recently accepted an overdue Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) in his barber shop from a retired Army first sergeant. Price served as an Army communications specialist from October 1976 until September 1992 — service that included Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm while assigned with the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. He later served in the National Guard, from July 2001-October 2004.
“After the (first) Gulf War, I came back to Fort Hood, Texas,” Price said. “At that time, we were awarded the Kuwait Liberation Medal. However, I had received (permanent change of station) orders to Hawaii, so by the time the medals came to Fort Hood, I had already PCS’d to Hawaii. I called back to my (old) unit to see if they’d forward my medal to me, but I never heard from them.”
Price said he was in Hawaii about nine months, and then he left the Army. He returned home to Quincy, Florida, near Tallahassee and later joined the National Guard in 2001. He said he wrote the Department of the Army and explained how he failed to get his campaign medal. He never received a response. Price said his Guard unit was activated and sent to Iraq in 2003. When he redeployed from Iraq, he got out of the Guard. This time, he settled in Hinesville.
According to MedalsofAmerica.com, the Kuwait Liberation Medal was established by the government of Saudi Arabia for Coalition Forces who served during Operation Desert Storm. Price served in the Gulf War from Oct. 3, 1990 to April 15, 1991.
“About two weeks ago, I met a retired first sergeant by the name of Isaiah Dawson,” he said. “We were talking about the Gulf War. He had participated in it, (and I told him) I had participated in it … but that I never received my medal. He said he had contacts and that he could get me my medal.
“He came by the barber shop … and we had a small ceremony. I stopped cutting hair, and he presented the medal to me.”
Price said he is especially grateful to Dawson for getting him the medal he should have received 23 years ago, and he’s glad to finally have the recognition for service he rendered to his country during a time of war. He said he started his career as a barber shortly after he left the Army.
“I’ve been cutting hair professionally for 16 years now,” he said, explaining he has no interest in returning to Florida. “This is my home now. That’s what I tell people.”
Now he has a campaign medal he can display in his barber shop, which is located close to Fort Stewart’s front gate. Price hopes it will prompt his clientele, many of whom are active-duty and former soldiers, to share “war stories” with each other while waiting for their turn in the barber’s chair.