Corpsman remembered

Kevin Kolus

Matthew Conte saved lives, helped Marines care for each other

Matthew Conte loved the Marines he protected.

The Navy hospital corpsman cared for them so much, his mother Lureen Conte said, that he had the forethought to teach his friends how to stabilize each other’s wounds.

On Feb. 1, 2007, an improvised explosive device struck the right side of a Humvee transporting Conte across the al-Anbar province in Iraq. The 22-year-old Streetsboro native died in the blast along with a Marine.

One of the other Marines suffered a shrapnel wound to his lower leg. From Conte’s teachings, the Marine’s comrades were able to stabilize his life-threatening wound, saving his life, Lureen said.

“He loved his guys. That’s what he would call them, and they looked up to him,” Lureen said.

Conte’s friends and family remember him as a considerate, fun-loving man who befriended everyone he met. He was also generous.

Lureen wanted to send Christmas presents to the 29 men Conte served with.

“He said, ‘Mom, if you can’t afford what they wanted, take the money out of my savings account,” Lureen said. “He was always taking care of his men.”

Heather Stutzman of Kent said Conte was like a big brother to her. They spent every summer together from fourth grade through high school.

As children, Conte would wait outside Stutzman’s house in the mornings and her mother would make them breakfast. They would build forts with the neighborhood kids, play baseball and jump on Stutzman’s trampoline.

But her favorite memory of Conte was the way he took care of his friends.

“He always made me feel good about myself,” Stutzman said. “He always told me how happy he was to know me. He had one of the biggest hearts you’d ever find in anybody.”

A memorial page to Conte on MySpace continues to receive messages of love from the people who knew him.

“One year Matt, it’s still so hard to believe,” wrote Lisa, one of many friends to comment on the one year anniversary of Conte’s death. “You know you are still thought of every single day. Still missed every single day and of course, still loved every single day. You were and always will be my hero. I love you.”

Stutzman called Conte’s death a “very sad loss.”

“Being friends with Matt and knowing Matt was one of the best memories of my life,” Stutzman said. “It absolutely crushes me when I think that he’s not here, and I won’t be able to see his smiles or hear that laugh anymore.”

Conte, who was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, had a premonition that he would die when he left for Iraq.

He told Lureen and her husband, Gale, who have relocated to Port St. Lucie, Fla., where he wanted his belongings to go, and what he wanted done with his body.

Lureen said she is proud of her son’s service, and never tried to talk him out of enlisting.

“We need to be there,” she said. “As a mom, I paid a big price for that, but I want to be able to walk into a church and know that there won’t be a car bomb there.”

“I want to be able to go up to the Empire State building and not worry about a plane running into it. I want my freedom.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kevin Kolus at [email protected].