The Long Beach City Council in 2008 designated the date Michael Valente Day, in honor of the city's lone recipient of the prestigious medal.
In May 2008, the late Al
Symons, a Long Beach resident and retired engineer who worked for the
Department of Defense, requested that the City Council designate Sept. 29 as
Michael Valente Day. That September, Symons got his wish.
voted to designate that date in honor of the city’s lone recipient of the
Congressional Medal of Honor — the highest award for valor given to a member of
the U.S. Armed Forces for actions against an enemy force. At the time, just
3,446 such medals had been awarded since its inception in 1863.
“You have no idea how happy
I am that you are taking this resolution at this time,” Symons said to the
applause of the crowd at the council meeting that night.
City Manager Charles
Theofan noted that the council heeded President George W. Bush’s nationwide
call to honor the memory of all recipients of the prestigious medal.
“In the City of Long Beach,
we want every September 29 to be a day for people to reflect and honor the life
and accomplishments of Michael Valente,” Theofan said. “… This is the very
least we can do to honor him.”
On Sept. 29, 1918, Private
Valente’s regiment, Company D of the 107th Infantry, was suffering heavy
casualties during operations against German forces at the Hindenburg line near
Ronssoy, France. Alongside a fellow soldier, Valente rushed forward through
intense machine gun fire directly on an enemy nest, killing two gunners and
capturing five enemy soldiers.
Discovering another machine
gun nest nearby that rained heavy fire on American forces, Valente and his
companion charged it, killed the gunner, jumped into the enemy trench, killed
two more soldiers and captured 21 others. Valente's actions represent the first
penetration of the Hindenburg line.
Nearly 11 years later to the day, on Sept. 27, 1929, President Herbert Hoover
decorated Valente, then a retired sergeant, with the medal in Washington.
"It's the proudest
moment of my life," Valente said, according to a New York Times
account dated the day after.
An Italian immigrant, Valente
married Margareta Marchello after the war and moved to her hometown, Newark, N.J., before the
couple settled in Long Beach around 1919, eventually buying a home on West
Walnut Street where they raised three children. Valente was a contractor and
real estate agent who built houses in Long Beach, but he eventually gave up the
business to work as the city marshal at City Hall. Valente was 80 years old when he died in 1976.
“My father was very proud,
but he didn’t talk about it much,” Valente’s daughter, Lido Beach resident
Josephine Cuneo, said of the Medal of Honor. “He was wonderful, kind and
soft-spoken. Unless other people told us about the medal, we would never have
The city named one of its
senior apartments, near City Hall, after Valente, as did the Sons of Italy
lodge that he attended. In July 2010, the County Legislature voted unanimously
to rename the Long Beach Bridge the Michael Valente Memorial Bridge. The
was held the following March at the bridge and City Hall.
Ralph Madalena, Valente’s
grandson who lives in Long Beach, was instrumental in getting the bridge
“Many cultures believe that
you never die, so long as you are remembered,” Madalena said, “and people like
my grandfather live on.”
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