HILLSBOROUGH, NJ –US Marine LCpl. James J. Langon IV aspired to be a gourmet chef, and planned to attend the New York Culinary Institute when his hitch with the Marines ended.
That’s why he chose to be a cook in the Marines, and as fate would have it, he died doing what he liked to do best.
Langon grew up on Woods Road and attended Hillsborough High School, graduating in June, 1981. He played First Trumpet in the marching band, ran track, and had played football with the Hillsborough Dukes.
One month after graduation, he was grinding it out at boot camp in Parris Island, SC, learning what it takes to be a Marine; back home, his classmates were enjoying their summer and looking forward to their freshmen year in college.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 875 in 1981, and interest rates were 15.75 percent; Princess Di married Prince Charles, and the AIDS virus was identified. Space Shuttle Columbia made its first flight and MS-DOS was released by Microsoft along with the first IBM PC.
Two years later, the world would witness a new reality – a terrorist attack.
Langon finished boot camp and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (1/8)/Battalion Landing Team (BLT) and soon deployed to Beirut, Lebanon with his unit, part of the US Multinational Force-Lebanon Peacekeeping Mission.
Two years after graduating high school, Langon was one of 220 US Marines killed by a suicide bomber in an attack on the US Marine barracks in Beirut, on Oct. 23, 1983, recently characterized by Vice President Mike Pence as "the opening salvo in a war that we have waged ever since—the global war on terror."
Langon was in the mess tent adjacent to the barracks at Beirut International Airport preparing breakfast for his fellow Marines when the truck exploded .
Langon was 20 when he died.
He is buried at Ocean County Memorial Park in Toms River.
Hillsborough Memorial VFW Post #8371 began working on an appropriate method of honoring Langon's service in 2012, according to Tom Cellilli, post commander, who spoke during yesterday’s ceremony. A plaque dedicated in memory of Langon hangs on a wall in the high school, but the VFW wanted to do more.
Cellilli offered a chronology of the post’s efforts and those who were involved.
Their efforts soon paid off, with the Hillsborough Township Committee passing a resolution dated March 26, 2014 approving the street name LCpl Langon Way for a future housing development.
It has taken four years, and the homes in the neighborhood are still under construction, but the street designated LCpl Langon Way will be the main entrance in to the development known as Amwell Commons/Westerling Place, located on 495-507 Amwell Road, less than a half mile west of Hillsborough High School and about 4.5 miles from where Langon grew up on Woods Road.
Langon’s memory, his service and his sacrifice were honored Wednesday, June 13 in the township’s Garden of Honor in a formal dedication ceremony hosted by the VFW, adjacent to the township's Municipal Building, 379 South Branch Road.
“As we worked to make the street naming a reality, we encountered many roadblocks,” Cellilli said. “At times it appeared we would take two steps forward and one step back. And, there were times when it felt that we were taking one step forward and two steps back.
“But at long last, tonight we can say ‘Mission Accomplished’ after pursuing our goal since 2012. “
Cellilli has been exchanging letters with Langon’s mother, Carol Schak, for several years; illness prevented her from making the trip north from Florida where she now lives.
Cellilli read an excerpt from one of those letters:
“We wish to thank you Mr. Cellilli and the members of VFW Post 8371 for the honor that is being given our son Jim. For many years it seemed
as though the sacrifice made by Jim and his fellow Marines in Beirut had been forgotten.
“It touches our hearts that his sacrifice and that of his Marine brothers in Beirut, while on a “peacekeeping mission”, will now be recognized.
“Jim was proud to serve his country and a proud member of the Marine Corps. Our family members were very grateful for the support that was given to us by Hillsborough High School and community of Hillsborough.
“We have many fond memories of Jim’s high school years, his teachers, the band members and all of our friends & neighbors who came together in a tremendous show of support which we sorely needed.”
"Sadly, due to medical problems, we no longer can make the trip north and will not be able to attend the dedication. But Jim’s brother Tristan and our granddaughter and his friends will be in attendance. Thank you for making all this possible."
Despite a tireless effort to track down Langon’s father, Cellilli was unsuccessful. A stepbrother too young to know Langon sat in the front row during yesterday’s ceremony, but there were at least one dozen of Langon’s 1981 classmates present, including Rich Resavy, the township Director of Public Works, who offered his recollections of their friend.
“Jim had an edge to him, he wanted to be a lineman,” a reference to their time as teammates on the Dukes football team. “He wanted to a a tough guy.”
Resavy also spoke about a passage Langon had written in their middle school yearbook to an 8th grade teacher.
Resavy said he had second thoughts about mentioning the passage, saying it was “eerie.”
“I, James Langon, leave Mrs. ….. a bomb shelter for protection in case of communist attack.”
Looking out over the audience to the cluster of HHS ’81 classmates, Resavy said “You will always be a hero to us.”