Corporal Anthony Casamento of West Islip was one of five Long Islanders from World War II to receive the country’s highest military medal for valor: the Congressional Medal of Honor.
President Jimmy Carter bestowed the past due honor upon Cpl. Casamento, who survived his heroic efforts in the South Pacific, in 1980.
He died in 1987 in the Northport VA Medical Center.
Soon after, local officials did their part in keeping his memory alive in the form of Casamento Park, located on Muncey Road in Bay Shore.
In 1991 a plaque and memorial were constructed to celebrate his selfless actions in the battle of Guadalcanal.
As Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 came and went this year, many — if not, most people — forgot these dates marked the 79th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and the United States’ entrance into World War II.
The success of America’s involvement has historically been credited through our arsenal of democracy, which mass-produced fighter planes and munitions at historic rates.
Some relics of these efforts, locally, can still be seen in areas such as Bethpage Grumman Studios. The 30-acre site is also known as the birth of the Apollo Lunar Modules that placed man on the moon.
But the truly successful weapon for combatting tyranny and overthrowing Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan came from people like Cpl. Casamento, and the home-grown grit, courage, and determination of the estimated 1 million New Yorkers that served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II.
In many town squares, grass-covered monuments, parks, and roads across the country, one can find dedications to the 46,000 soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the ideals of America.
These names are bestowed in an effort to set an example of who we should inspire to be when our courage is under fire.
Throughout World War II, 460 Medals of Honor were awarded.
From the 460, only 198 were given out to soldiers who did not die in combat. Two Long Islanders received the medal following their deaths in World War II, and three were awarded the medal after being demobilized.
Counted among them was Cpl. Casamento.
As stated in the 1980 proposed Congressional Medal of Honor Citation:
Corporal Casamento was serving in Company D, First Battalion, Fifth Marines Division, on Guadalcanal, in the Pacific Theater of war, 1 November 1942. Casamento led a squad of machine guns on a ridge line near the Mantanikau River, which advanced along the left. Coming under strong enemy fire, the section that Casamento was accompanying was quickly decimated. Despite the devastation Casamento set up a machine gun and destroyed a machine gun emplacement to his front.
Sending the only remaining unwounded member of his squad to the battalion headquarters for reinforcements and supplies, Casamento continued to engage the other automatic weapons emplacements and repulsed multiple assaults by the enemy forces.
He continued to man the machine gun, thereby protecting the flanks of the adjoining companies, until the arrival of the main attacking force.
Immortalizing Cpl. Casamento, and others like him, prevents a community from forgetting our most defining moments, and forces the retelling of these heroic actions.
Yet the legacies of those like Cpl. Casamento face a threat of not only old age and death, but a second death of being forgotten.