Florida established a Veterans' Hall of Fame in 2013 to recognize and honor those, during or after their military service, who have made a significant contribution to the state.
New Smyrna Beach resident Rod Phillips is set to join that elite group. Last month, Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet selected him to be inducted Nov. 27 in a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion.
Dr. Frank Farmer, a retired colonel, former Attorney General and 2014 hall inductee, nominated Mr. Phillips for the honor.
“I was proud to nominate Rod Phillips because of his service to veterans,” Dr. Farmer said. “My narrative lays out all the things he has done over the years for veterans in addition to his extraordinary military service and in addition to his service as a police officer over the years before he retired.”
There were 19 names submitted to the nominating committee this year.
“We are exceptionally proud of Rod,” said Joe Rosa, VFW Post 3282 Commander in Port Orange. “He is an extraordinary person who does a lot for the post, does a lot for the (Vietnam Veterans of America) and does a lot for all the veterans in this community. If there is one person from our members and from our community (deserving of this) it is Rod Phillips because of all the persons that are involved in helping our veterans, he is the one that helps and does the most.”
Staff Sgt. Rod Phillips is a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran who joined the U.S. Army in July 1967, following the traditions of his father and grandfathers. In December 1967, after Parachute Training he was assigned to the 101st “Screaming Eagles” Airborne Division in Vietnam. His introduction to Vietnam was during the infamous “Tet Offensive” of January 1968.
While in Vietnam, Sgt. Phillips was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and more medals, including Presidential Unit Citations.
Upon returning from Vietnam, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. He is a graduate of Long Range and Reconnaissance Patrol training. He also served on the Airborne Division Honor Guard, traveling across the country performing military funerals for his fallen comrades who paid the ultimate price in the Vietnam War, who he says are “ truly America's heroes.”
After an honorable discharge active duty in July 1970, Sgt. Phillips remained in the Army Reserves, serving with the 11th Special Forces Group based at the University of Miami. He began his law enforcement career of 38 years, serving with Metro Dade in Miami, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and as an instructor at the State Law Enforcement Academy in Tallahassee. He retired in 2010 as a lieutenant.
Mr. Phillips is also retired from Halifax Health-Hospice where, among other projects he served as the chairman of the Veterans Committee in the national “Honor Our Veterans” pinning program.
He is in his third term as the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Daytona Beach Chapter 1048, which has won state and national awards under his leadership. He is the VVA Mentor Coordinator for the Judge David B. Beck Veterans Court in Volusia County. He is in also in his second term as second vice president of the VVA Florida State Council, with more than 4,400 members and 32 chapters. He serves as chairman of the Agent Orange and PTSD committees.
In 2016, Mr. Phillips coordinated five Agent Orange Town Halls across the state, including one in Daytona Beach with more than 300 people in attendance. The same year he received the VVA National Achievement Medal for his outstanding community service, advocacy and dedication to veterans and veteran issues.
He is the President of the VVA Florida Vietnam Veterans Assistance Foundation, and past editor of the VVA Florida State Council’s bi-weekly newsletter, the “E-Recon,” receiving the VVA National award for “E Newsletter” of the year in 2016. Mr. Phillips also has served three terms as a vice commander of the Veterans Council of Volusia County and serves on the Homeless Veterans steering committee with the council, coordinating five yearly “Stand Downs” for Homeless Vets.
Mr. Phillips was notified in October he had been selected to the hall. After a formal presentation, his name will be permanently placed in the rotunda of the State Capitol.
“This tops any achievement I have accomplished in my whole life,” he said. “It is a great honor just to be nominated for this. But to actually be nominated by your peers and selected by our elected leadership is one of the greatest honors anyone can imagine.”
He added, “Never forget, always remember our veterans. They have shed the blood and paid the ultimate price for our freedoms and our democracy.”
Mr. Phillips and his wife, Linda, a registered nurse for 45 years and also retired from Halifax Health Hospice, live in New Smyrna Beach. They have three children, Rodney II, Rachel and Clayton, and three grandchildren.