Penn Hills soldier kept family in dark about Iraq mission
Thursday, March 20, 2008
By Nicholas Tolomeo, Tri-State Sports &News Service
Edward and Claire Dice were at home in Penn Hills, knowing their son, Edward, was in Iraq with the Air Force. Their minds
were at ease, believing he was on the base, out of combat.
The younger Edward, however, was leading a group of 36 combat engineers on 82 combat logistics patrols over 5,000 miles
of that war-torn country.
He and his team encountered small-arms fire along the way while attempting to avoid improvised explosive devices, called
"I kept it from just about everyone [that I would be involved in combat] until I got back," said Capt. Dice, a 1997 Penn
Hills High School graduate.
"I did not want them worrying and I didn't even bring it up until they could see me in person."
Along with leading the convoy, Capt. Dice also hand-picked and trained the 35 other engineers. They moved 4,000 tons of
construction equipment and materials around the country, leading to the completion of 45 construction projects that were necessary
for a military surge.
Capt. Dice and the other engineers were hit by IEDs, but a lot of planning, a little luck and the armor on the vehicles
prevented serious injuries to anyone in the group.
"We encountered the IEDs pretty frequently," Capt. Dice said. "You plan as much as you can to mitigate the odds and you
look at the Intel reports, but inevitably they are going to get you.
"You just hope they are going to miss and you hope their timing is off. And if they do get you, you hope it's not a potent
one and it's cheaply made. The first one caught us off guard because the group before us didn't run into a lot of problems,
but we did bring everyone back."
Back in Pittsburgh, family members and friends still had no idea Capt. Dice was in combat situations.
"He really didn't say anything about being a convoy commander. The convoys are the most dangerous things there," his father
said. "He didn't tell us that part. He didn't want his mom to worry."
Not only did Capt. Dice return in one piece to a warm reception at Jimmy G's restaurant in Sharpsburg in November, he was
decorated. He was awarded a combat action medal and a Bronze Star Medal.
After graduating from Penn Hills, Capt. Dice received a scholarship and attended Penn State main campus, where he enrolled
in the ROTC program. He received a civil engineering degree and went directly into the Air Force.
He was sent to Minot, N.D., for three years to work as an engineer for the Air Force. He met his future wife, Shannon,
there. Both were later assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, where they were married.
"A lot of people think Vegas weddings are the drive-through ones," Capt. Dice said, joking. "But we had a nice one with
a big ballroom and everything.
"She is from California and we figured that Vegas is the best place to get people to come. The most important thing was
getting friends and family there, and they had no excuse not to come. So it worked out pretty good."
In his time with the Air Force, Capt. Dice has been deployed to Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. He expects to return to Iraq
during the summer. The Iraq deployment was an entirely different experience for him.
"The Afghan people were a little bit better informed. They knew what we were actually doing over there," Capt. Dice said.
"In Iraq, the folks are ignorant and they don't necessarily know what we are doing. They see a bunch of guys with guns
and it's hard to delineate between your friends and enemies. You've got to treat everyone as a potential threat. You have
to be forceful and keep your distance."
Capt. Dice, like many soldiers, had trouble readjusting upon returning from Iraq. He tried to avoid loud noises and big
groups of people, as do many of his peers.
"Coming back to Pittsburgh was therapeutic," he said. "Being that I grew up there, it was like medicine that really helped
the recovery process [move] quicker.
"I hung out with a lot of friends I went to high school and college with who still live in the local area. I have a big
family and spent a lot of time with them.
"You miss a lot when you are over there. You miss babies being born and weddings. I got to kind of get caught up on all
First published on March 20, 2008 at 11:51 am
If you would like to donate to Penn Hills People, please click on the PayPal icon.