VVA life members Rod Phillips of New Smyrna Beach and Francis “Len” Loving of Jacksonville were among the 20 veterans inducted on Nov. 27, 2017, in a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion.
Phillips served in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division during the Tet Offensive in January 1968 and was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Air Medal, as well as a Presidential Unit Citation. After leaving the military, Phillips began a 38-year law enforcement career with the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. He is president of Chapter 1048 in Daytona Beach and second vice president of the Florida State Council.
“It is what he’s done for veterans and how much time he puts in for veterans,” said retired Col. Harry Farmer Jr. “The Florida Governor’s Hall of Fame is not a military hall of fame, it is a veterans hall of fame and honors those veterans who have done things post-military. It has a prominent place in the Rotunda. Rod fits that category of service to veterans.”
“I’m very humbled,” Phillips said. “To receive this honor is part of my legacy. I’m honored to have served all the veterans. I’m doing this for them. This is not work. I’m a strong advocate for veterans. I’m just thankful and blessed that I have the opportunity to help these ladies and gentlemen.”
Loving graduated from Southern Benedictine College in 1960 and holds a master’s degree from George Washington University. He served 30 years in the Marine Corps, including two tours in Vietnam with distinction as an infantry officer. After retiring from the military as a colonel, Loving worked for the Florida Department of Banking and Finance.
In 2011, Loving, a recipient of the Legion of Merit with Gold Star, Bronze Star, and other medals, opened the Five Stars Veterans Center in Jacksonville at the request of Allied Veterans of the World. The nonprofit center provides food, housing, and additional assistance to about 30 homeless veterans at a time, and has helped more than 170 veterans get back on their feet since it opened.
“The award is based on what veterans have done to support Florida,” said Jane Verkouteren, recording secretary for the board of directors at the Five Star Veterans Center, who nominated Loving. “Col. Loving is someone I greatly admire. He fully supports Florida’s ‘No More Homeless Veterans Initiative’ and has a never-ending commitment to making the world, especially Florida, a better place to live. And he’s getting it done—one veteran at a time.”
“I was very honored and very humbled over the fact that someone would think that what I accomplished after leaving active duty would put me in that very elite group,” Loving said.
Adapted from a report by David Treffinger, editor of The Florida E-Recon Report, the Florida State Council newspaper.