Mom says Navy corpsman loved life of service
Navy Corpsman Matthew Conte joined the Navy when there weren't many good opportunities in his hometown of Streetsboro, Ohio.
"He loved what he was doing," his mother Lureen Conte said yesterday from Jacksonville, Fla. "He loved taking care of his men. Those were his guys -- it sounded almost like he was a mother hen."
Conte, 22, died Feb. 1 in Al Anbar province when an bomb exploded the Hummer he was riding. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, in Kaneohe.
Conte signed up in 2004 hoping to build bridges for the Navy, but he was assigned as a hospital corpsman, his mother said.
Five months after returning from Afghanistan, he departed for Iraq on Sept. 11, 2006.
Conte's family learned he had died while returning from volunteering to help a casualty in another area with three Marines. Another Marine died in the incident and the other two were injured.
The last time she spoke with him, a few days earlier, he had called and said: "I just want to tell you I love you and I love Dad. Send me some chips." He sounded busy, she said.
Earlier, he had compared Iraq with Afghanistan.
"Iraq is hell," she remembered him saying. "It's worse here, but this is also where we need to be."
Conte wanted to become a radiologist after his Navy service, Lureen Conte said.
He loved to hunt and fish, using a bow, black powder or a shotgun, and scored a deer every year, his mother said.
"He's very competitive," she said. "When he did something, he did it well and he did it big. He tried his hardest to do the best."
She recalled how her son had asked her to send extra Bibles so everyone in his church group could have one. Last Christmas Lureen Conte's workplace adopted her son and his buddies to fulfill their Christmas wish list. If someone couldn't send a gift, Conte asked his mother to use the money in his account to pay for it.
"He cared about his men," she said. "He had a smile that just didn't stop."
Conte is survived by a sister and brother and parents Lureen and Gale Conte of Jacksonville, Fla.