The Hampton Bays School District honored World War II veteran Antonio Gil Sr. at a ceremony on Jan. 19. He is pictured with middle school students Carly Dunn (left) and Erin Brosnan (right). (Courtesy Photo)
Each month, the Hampton Bays School District will bring history to life by honoring a local veteran throughout the school year. The first honoree of 2018 is Antonio Gil Sr., a World War II veteran. An American flag will be flown in his honor through January.
Hampton Bays School District honored Gil Sr. with a ceremony at the Elementary School on January 19. During the ceremony, the Middle School Jazz Band performed and 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.
"The district is proud to honor Mr. Gil for his bravery and service to the United States," said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.
Boot camp at Camp Peary, Virginia, was difficult for Gil who was just 19-years-old when he enlisted in the Navy in 1942. He was given many orders, frequently served kitchen patrol and had to stand guard. After brief stateside assignments at Camps Parks and Rousseau in California, Gil shipped out with his unit to Australia and then to New Guinea. Gil described New Guinea as a place where "it rained daily for nine months and then the monsoon started." The only paths in the jungle were knee-deep mud under the onslaught of the drenching rain. Gil'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 did not protect from the clouds of mosquitos, swarms of ants, and other stinging insects. There were several diseases that the sailors were exposed to, including malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, scrub typhus, and more. Most of the sailors contracted at least one of these and Gil got two of the worst: malaria and dengue fever.
In addition to the threat of disease, 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 through the South Pacific. Gil and his fellow sailors got the job done and developed a strong bond over time. Contact with family and friends in America was sporadic. Mail was censored and information was cut 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. 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.
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