Members of the Col. Phillip C. DeLong Marine Corps League Detachment 1267 honored one of their own Monday night after he received a prestigious award.
The highly cherished award was presented during a ceremony at the Bacall Recreation Center that was attended by a large majority of the detachment’s members. The group is known for sponsoring a variety of charitable efforts and is the driving force behind the annual Toys for Tots campaign in The Villages.
James J. Davies clearly was honored to receive The Chapel of Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Humanitarian Award as his fellow Marines showered him with applause. The award, which is rarely given out, came from the Four Chaplains Foundation in Philadelphia following Davies’ nomination by past recipients of the award from within the Marine Corps League of Florida.
Davies started his career as an enlisted Marine and retired more than 30 years later as a lieutenant colonel. He has spent an immense amount of time raising money for the Marine Corps League’s charities and countless hours helping to obtain markers for veterans in unmarked graves.
Volunteer Phillip Beck was honored by Commandant Nathan Pratt with a certificate of appreciation for his work in the Marine Corp League’s Red Shirt Program. League members raised more than $41,000 with the program last year and aided 23 charities with the funds.
Three new members also were sworn into the League on Monday night. They were Bruce Hodges, John Murphy and Bob Myles.
The League plans to present its Marine of the Year Award at its next meeting, which will be held Monday, Feb. 17. The detachment, which was formed in 2007, has named a Marine of the Year every year since its inception. Past winners include:
- 2007: Jack Maiz
- 2008: Joe Olimpio
- 2009: Ralph Hoffman
- 2010: Fred Geier
- 2011: Daniel J. Smyczynski
- 2012: Charles Miner
- 2013: G. Lee Radford
- 2014: Dennis J. Faillo
- 2015: Donald R. Westlake
- 2016: John L. Davies
- 2017: Nathan Pratt
- 2018: Reggie Nealy
The Villages detachment is named for the late Col. Phillip Cunliffe DeLong, a fighter pilot who spent 27½ years in the Marine Corps before retiring in 1969. He fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The former Villagers, known as a wizard with the F4U Corsair, also is believed to be the only pilot to shoot down enemy planes in two different wars – WW II and Korea – with the same type of aircraft.
DeLong, who served as the commander of six different aviation units and ended up logging close to 200 missions, also carried the distinction of achieving the dream every fighter pilot strives for – becoming an ace, which is earned by shooting down five or more enemy planes. But DeLong didn’t stop there, and with 11 solo WW II kills to his name and his assistance in another takedown, the Michigan native achieved the unlikely status of double ace in 69 missions. Clearly, enemy pilots feared the sight of his Corsair coming their way – and rightly so.
DeLong was married to his wife, Katie, for more than 60 years. The couple loved living in the Bailey Ridge Villas in the Village of St. Charles – she says DeLong’s love for flying never went away – and they had two children, son Michael, who followed in his dad’s footsteps into the Marine Corps and retired as a lieutenant general; and daughter Katie, whose husband retired from the Army as a colonel.