Humanitarian prize awarded to Marine

John Davies, at his home in the Village of Liberty Park, diplays the Legion of Honor Humanitarian Award he recently received from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Foundation.

John Davies is still in shock. The retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel was awarded the Legion of Honor Humanitarian Award by the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Foundation in January. The award was given in recognition of Davies’ lifetime of service to others, but his recent work tracking down photos of Florida natives who were killed in the Vietnam War is thought to be what earned the attention of the foundation. Although he is greatly honored, Davies said the personal significance of this particular award is what has him in disbelief. The Four Chaplains Foundation is a national nonprofit organization founded upon the selfless acts of four Army chaplains who gave their lives to save others. When their ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat during World War II, the chaplains gave their life jackets to soldiers who could not swim, linked arms with one another and went down with the SS Dorchester.

Davies’ father was a Methodist minister who volunteered to join the Army as a chaplain during World War II but was unable to serve due to poor eyesight. He had a framed picture of the four chaplains hanging on the wall of his church for the rest of his life.

“I was raised by a Methodist minister who taught me about the importance of service to others,” Davies said. “I just wish that my late wife, Susan, could have been here to see me receive this award.”

Davies received the award at the January meeting of the Col. Phillip C. DeLong Marine Corps League Detachment 1267 at Bacall Recreation Center.

The Vietnam Wall of Faces project is a national effort to put a picture to every name that is etched on the black granite surface of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

When Davies began working on the project, there were about 800 Florida names without photos on the Wall of Faces.

Today, every KIA veteran from Florida has a photo. Davies got involved with the project to help track down Marines on the list.

While working on the list, Davies became aware that some of the veterans who were killed in Vietnam were buried in unmarked graves.

Although headstones are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, there was a charge by the cemeteries for the base to mount them on.

Davies and the group of volunteers working on the project raised the money to cover the costs, and now every Vietnam veteran’s grave is marked appropriately.

Davies and his wife moved to the Village of Liberty Park in August 2005, when he retired as the global program director for IBM after 35 years of service.

His wife died 18 months ago.

Davies also had eyesight issues but joined the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam as an enlisted man reaching the rank of sergeant in 18 months because of his leadership qualities.

During his continued service in the Marine Corps Reserve, he was promoted to captain in 1978 and retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2003. 

His father’s example and the life Davies lived because of that training have garnered him 10 individual service awards for the Marine Corps League.

Presenting the award was the Rev. John Gionet, pastor of the Azalea Park United Methodist Church in Orlando, who also is the Chapel of Four Chaplains chairman for Florida.

“In addition to being one of the founding members of Detachment 1267, Davies has dedicated in excess of 18,000 unselfish service hours to the detachment and his community,” Gionet said.

Davies is a volunteer at Cornerstone Hospice, where he renders “The Final Salute” to dying veterans.

He has served in every position of the detachment and currently is serving as the senior vice commandant. 

 Other Marine Corps projects in which Davies is involved include the RED-shirt Friday campaign in the community and the Toys for Tots program.

RED (Remember Everyone Deployed) helps to garner community support for active-duty military members and also provides significant financial support for the detachment. The Toys for Tots program delivered Christmas gifts to more than 6,000 local families this year.

“John Davies’ dedication and commitment in caring for veterans and his community is more than commendable; it is his passion,” Gionet said. “His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of self-sacrifice and is worthy of the Legion of Honor of the Chapel of Four Chaplains Award.”

Nathan Pratt, commandant of Detachment 1267, has both a personal and official relationship with Davies through his involvement with the league.

“I can’t think of a finer Marine or gentleman who is more worthy of this award,” Pratt said. “He’s an integral part of this organization, and I wish I knew 100 more men just like him.”

 

Staff writer Frank Ross can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5367, or frank.ross@thevillagesmedia.com.