A Colona, Ill., man and member of the “Greatest Generation” received some special awards Saturday, more than 60 years overdue.
87-year-old Phillip Clong enlisted in the U.S. Army with his twin brother, Floyd, in 1944. During World War II, the pair fought in England, France and Germany, where Phillip was wounded in the left leg. A short time later, a mortar round exploded into a tree, breaking it apart and fatally injuring Floyd. When the war ended, Phillip returned to Kewanee, Ill., with just his and his brother’s Purple Hearts.
More than six decades later, his family found the broken medal.
“He was having problems with his heart, so we were kind of looking toward the worst of things. We started going through his things, and we found his Purple Heart, and it was broken. So, we decided to see if we could get it fixed for him, and it just kind of snowballed from there,” said Mark Clong, Phillip’s son.
Fixing that medal — and a little digging by Congressman Bobby Schilling’s office — turned up a dozen other awards Phillip had never received or even known about. They included the American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Bronze Star.
After the discovery earlier this year, Phillip was finally recognized Saturday, during a ceremony at the Rock Island Arsenal.
“It means a lot. We’re proud of him. He lost his brother, too, so he went through hell. So, I’m so proud to honor him now,” said Mark.
“They didn’t have their families, they didn’t have the connectivity with Skype and email and Yahoo and Hotmail and all these other different forms of communication that the soldiers have today, so it’s very important for us to show our gratitude for them for sacrificing so much during some very, very tough, hard fighting back in those days,” said First Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews.
It’s why so many gathered to say, “Thank you,” 66 years later.