Flag flies for Antonio Gil Sr.

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In its mission to bring history to life by honoring a local veteran every month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Antonio Gil Sr. by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of January. 

“The district is proud to honor Mr. Gil for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen. 

Gil, a World War II veteran, was honored with a ceremony at Hampton Bays Elementary School on Jan. 19. During the ceremony, the Hampton Bays Middle School Jazz Band performed and middle school students Erin Brosnan and Carly Dunn read their Patriot’s Pen essays. The event culminated with the raising of the flag on the district’s flagpole. 

Boot camp at Camp Peary, Virginia, was rough for Gil, who was just 19 when he enlisted in the Navy in 1942. He was given many orders, frequently served kitchen patrol and had to stand guard duty, but this did little to prepare him for what was to come.  

After brief stateside assignments at Camps Parks and Rousseau in California, he shipped out with his unit to Australia and then to New Guinea. New Guinea, as Gil describes, was a place where “it rained daily for nine months and then the monsoon started,” and where the only paths through the jungle quickly became knee-deep mud under the onslaught of the drenching rain. Because New Guinea was “just a jungle” when Gil arrived, the unit’s first task was to build huts as shelter from the rain, although they did little to protect the sailors from the 90-degree heat and 90-percent-plus humidity. The huts also did not protect from the clouds of mosquitos, swarms of ants and other stinging insects, or from the diseases they spread. Malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, scrub typhus and more awaited. Most of the sailors contracted at least one of these and Gil got two of the worst – malaria and dengue fever.

In addition to these hardships, sniper fire was common as the men loaded and unloaded ships of the supplies and ammo needed to support military operations in New Guinea and throughout the South Pacific. Despite all this, Gil and his fellow sailors got the job done and developed a strong bond. The bond was not enough, however, to detract from the loneliness that the soldiers experienced. Contact with family and friends in America was sporadic. Mail, when it came, was censored; information was cut out or crossed out. Rare USO shows were morale boosters, but troops spent most of what little free time they had playing cards. 
In November 1945, Gil transferred to Lido Beach, New York. There, he was stationed until his discharge as a gunner’s mate second class – V6 USNR.  

After his discharge, Gil went to work for Fisher Baking Company as a route driver. He moved to Hampton Bays in 1954 and worked for Nugent & Potter as a road salesman until his retirement.
Always active in the community, Gil has served as a Southampton Town councilman, a member of the fire department and Southampton Town Planning Board, a Little League coach and a Cub Scout leader. He has two sons, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Today, Gil is the last surviving member of his outfit.