Nearly 35 years after he was killed in Lebanon, plans to honor veteran and Hillsborough High School graduate James J. Langon IV have become a reality.
On June 13, friends and family of Langon and community members gathered in the Hillsborough Municipal Garden of Honor to remember the local man who lost his life serving the country, and to announce the street named after him — LCpl Langon Way.
Mayor Gloria McCauley said the road will be off Amwell Road West, across from Pleasantville Road.
After graduating from Hillsborough High School in 1981, Langon traded in his cap and gown for a US Marine Corps fatigues.
He then went off to basic training in Parris Island, South Carolina, before moving on to advanced training for the Marine Corps. He ultimately chose to be a cook, as he had dreams of entering the Culinary Institute of New York when he was discharged from service.
Following his training, Langdon was assigned to the First Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and on May 11, 1983 — his 20th birthday — his unit was reassigned and shipped out to Beirut International Airport in Lebanon, where the unit was deployed with a subordinate U.S. 24th Marine Amphibious Unit.
“These units were part of a multinational peacekeeping force deployed during the Lebanese Civil War,” Hillsborough’s Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #8371 Commander Tom Cellilli said.
At around 6 a.m. on Oct. 23, 1983, Langon was busy preparing breakfast in a building adjacent to the barracks housing his unit. Roughly 20 minutes later, six truck bombs struck separate buildings, housing U.S. and French members of the multinational force. The attack killed 299 American and French servicemen, including Langon.
The truck bombs, Cellilli said, contained explosives equivalent to 12,000 pounds of TNT.
“The final U.S. toll was 220 Marines, 18 Navy and three Army service personnel. The simultaneous truck bomb explosion nearby killed 58 French soldiers,” Cellilli said. “It was the largest single-day loss of life to Marines since the World War II battle of Iwo Jima. It was also the single worst military loss for France since the end of the Algerian War.”
That day, Langon’s mother Carol Schak — upon returning home from work — was met with a Marine captain and enlisted Marine at her doorstep.
“I don’t want to see you here,” she said she told the captain.
“We don’t want to be here,” he responded.
Langon is buried in Ocean County Memorial Park in Toms River, Ocean County.
In 2012, the Hillsborough Memorial VFW Post began their efforts to commemorate Langon and the service he provided while in the Marines.
On March 25, 2015, the township committee approved a resolution recognizing Langon for his military service, according to Cellilli.
“The resolution approved LCpl Langon Way as a street name and added to the approved road list to be used as a street name when next needed,” he added. “The resolution was forwarded to the township engineering department, who had oversight responsibilities.”
Cellilli began working extensively with VFW Post Adjutant Joe Ortu to locate Langon’s family members.
“Our goal was two-fold. One was to notify them of the approved street naming resolution, and the other was to have them approve of our endeavors on behalf of their son,” Cellilli said.
While the pair were able to find Schak — who had moved to Florida with her husband George — they were unsuccessful in locating his father. Schak was unable to make the street naming ceremony, but Langon’s brother Tristan was present.
“It’s a great honor to know that he’s still being remembered, that the people of the township still remember,” Tristan said. “All the support from people coming out — it’s really heartwarming that they did this.”
Numerous members of the Hillsborough High School Class of ’81 were in attendance, including Hillsborough Township Director of Department of Public Works Rich Resavy, who met Langon while playing football with him in middle school.
Langon, Resavy said, had an “edge” to him when they were in school together.
“He wanted to be the tough guy,” he said. “As smart as he was and with everything he could do — he was a great musician and he was a great student — I think he felt like he had to do the football thing. He didn’t recognize just how great he really was.”
Resavy showed the crowd the original newspaper article from the Hillsborough Beacon about Langon’s death, as well as their eighth grade yearbook. The quote Langon left in the “class will” was an “eerie” one, Resavy said. It read that he was leaving a teacher a bomb shelter, in case of communist attack.
“It’s that reminder that you’re 20 years old, you don’t normally go through these things,” Resavy said. “It was all new and it’s one of those moments that’s right at the top of your thought process your whole life.”
Resavy concluded his speech by addressing Langon personally.
“Jim, if you’re listening, from all of your friends at Hillsborough High School Class of ’81 and others, thank you for joining the U.S. Marine Corps and helping to defend our country,” he said. “We are all very proud of you and are saddened to this day about the way you lost your life. You will always be a hero to us.”