Although he served 30 years in the armed forces, Herman Price never encouraged his Washington-born son to join the military.

"I wanted all of my children to make up their own minds," Price said. And when his boy, Bruce, joined the Army and became a Green Beret, the father had no objections.

"He was his own man," he said.

Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Bruce E. Price lived for his comrades in the Army Special Forces, his father said. And he died among them. He was killed in southern Afghanistan when his unit was ambushed Saturday by insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, the Department of Defense announced yesterday.

Price, 37, of Fayetteville, N.C., was on patrol in the town of Kajaki, about 60 miles northwest of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, when his unit, the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), was attacked, according to the Army. The incident is still being investigated.

Price, square-jawed and shaven-headed in his official Army portrait, served as assistant detachment commander. He was, according to his father, a tough, serious soldier who enjoyed what he did for a living.

"I have talked to some of his close friends who felt that he was also a wonderful person, and easygoing generally," said Herman Price, who lives in Florida and was in Fayetteville with his son's family yesterday. "He loved life, loved his buddies, loved his family and loved his job."

Bruce Price was born at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1966. At the time, his parents lived in the District. The Prices lived the wandering life of a military family, moving to El Paso, the San Francisco Bay area and back to the Washington area, settling for a short time in Chevy Chase. Price attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

Joining the military was not what his father, a military physician, had in mind for him when he graduated from high school in 1985. But Bruce Price was interested in the challenge of being a soldier and enlisted in the Army in 1986.

He met his wife, Renate, in 1990 in Germany and brought her back to the United States, where they had a son, Aidan, who is now 8.

Price volunteered for Special Forces in 1992, then earned the right to wear the green beret that marked his membership in one of the country's elite fighting forces. Members of the Special Forces were among the first on the ground in Afghanistan when U.S. troops invaded that country in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He was sent to Afghanistan three times, beginning in 2002, and earned the Bronze Star. A spokesman for the Special Operations Command said a citation for the medal was not available and did not respond to further requests for information about how it was won other than to say it was given for previous service and not posthumously.

Special Forces missions are often secret, and Price did not talk much about his work, even with his family.

"We never discussed any of that," his father said. "I never really asked him."

Even when he was not performing combat exercises or stationed overseas, he liked to get outdoors, his father said. When he had time off, he hunted and fished, practiced martial arts, or rode his motorcycle.

Herman Price said his son would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a date to be determined.

"How do you express your feelings at a time like this?" he said. "We're sorry he didn't get to live a longer life, but we feel that he lived the time that he had here to the utmost. He basically has two families. He has his natural family, and he has his Army family. Everyone's going to miss him."

Chief Warrant Officer 2nd Class Bruce E. Price was drawn to soldiering by the challenge.