Jim Conti has seen a lot. As a member of the First Signal Battalion, which supported Fourth Armored Division (General George S. Patton’s famous unit), Conti served two years in the Army from 1964 to 1966 with NATO in Germany during the Berlin War Crisis. And now he’s set to be the Grand Marshal of the 2016 Floral Park Memorial Day Parade.
With 33 years under his belt with the American Legion, where he served in the Floral Park Post as Sergeant-at-Arms, 2nd and 1st Vice Commander, Commander and County Delegate, he’s humble about the honor and is quick to spread the credit about all the work the Legion does.
“I was asked about a month ago. We’ve run out of the older fellows, and they’re coming down to war babies and people my age. After me, it’ll be baby boomers,” he said. “The thing is, now I’m the chaplain. I have a quiet little job—I have to show up for funerals. We’ve done a heck of a lot of things and we still do a lot. It wasn’t as busy as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, but we’ve cut down. Then we’ve had to cut down again because we just can’t get enough people. But we still run Memorial Day for the village—the parade and the ceremony. We do Flag Day, when we incinerate the flags. We do Veterans Day, visit the Veterans Hospital in St. Albans every month for bingo, and we just had [those veterans] over for dinner on the last Friday in April at the Post.”
Somehow while doing all this volunteer work with the Legion, Conti worked for more than 40 years as a senior examiner with the New York State Department of Insurance. He and his wife, Rosemary, (who is active in the Floral Park American Legion Auxiliary) have two sons, Matthew and Paul. In addition to being the current chaplain, he was elected a Life Member of the American Legion. During his hitch in Germany, he was given the NATO Service Medal and Overseas Service Medal, and earned the Expert Marksman Badge. A man of faith who is a member of the Floral Park Lions Club and regularly attends St. Hedwig’s Church, Conti reserves his greatest praise for the armed forces.
“Besides God almighty, it’s the military that lets you have the life you have here,” he said with a hint of pride. “It’s not just your dad raising you or your education but the fact that somebody is watching over you that you have a free society. I know it sounds old and patriotic but that’s reality.”