Honoring the Heroes of 9/11

On the 14th anniversary of Sept. 11, the school district continued its tradition of honoring veterans by conducting a flag ceremony at the elementary school that recognized the heroes of Sept. 11, as well as the service of World War II veteran Salvatore Conte.

“Mr. Conte is a symbol to all those who have served our country,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

Before presenting Conte with an American flag, members of the elementary school K-Kids Club read excerpts from Conte’s bio and middle school students read their Patriot Pen essays.

Born in Brooklyn in July 1925, Conte was raised at Saint John’s Orphan Home, where he attended elementary school. He went on to attend Brooklyn Technical High School, transferring later to Manhattan Music and Arts High School. In 1942, at the age of 17, Conte left high school to enlist in the Marine Corps.

At the height of World War II, Conte was sent to Paris Island, South Carolina, where he and his fellow Marines attended boot camp. After completing boot camp, he was sent to Quantico, Virginia, for additional training and was then integrated into the 3rd Marine Division Amphibious Corps.

Conte’s “baptism of fire” started in November 1943 as part of the initial beach invasion on the island of Bougainville in the Pacific Ocean, which was held by the Japanese. It took Conte and his fellow Marines nearly a month of fighting and the loss of 423 Marines’ lives to wrestle the island back.     

On April 1, 1945, Conte and his fellow Marines were sent to Okinawa, where they fought the Japanese for control. Conte fought in Okinawa until June 25 of that year, when he was flown to the island of Guam to wait for the final invasion of Japan, but in August 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, ending the war.

After being discharged in December 1945, Conte returned to Brooklyn to complete high school and find employment with a steamship company. It was during that time that he met his wife, Rose, a schoolteacher. The pair married in 1957 and settled in Forest Hills, Queens, where they raised five children. Their family has since grown to include 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Today, Conte and Rose live full-time in Hampton Bays in a summer home they purchased in 1992. The couple is active in Saint Rosalie’s Church and Conte is also a member of the Knights of Columbus.  

Following the presentation of the American flag to Conte, dignitaries in attendance, including Legislator Jay Sniderman and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst, bestowed proclamations in Conte’s name, and the Hampton Bays Fire Department presented the district with a Sept. 11 memorial wreath. The ceremony concluded with fourth-graders singing “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” and the ceremonial raising of the flag in front of the elementary school.