PO 2nd Class Matthew G. Kantor.
Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek at Fort Story, Va., died on on Nov. 1, in Zabul province, Afghanistan from a gun-shot wound inflicted during a fire-fight with insurgents while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. He was 22.
Kantor is survived by his parents, Mary Jane and Kenneth Kantor, along with a sister Alyssa and brother Kristopher.
Kantor, born on August 27, 1990 in New York, N.Y., graduated from Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren in June 2008. He enlisted in the United States Navy on March 9, 2009.
Mary Sok, track coach and social studies department head at Watchung Hills, remembers Kantor as "a wonderful young man" who spent three years on her spring track and field team.
"Matt was a young man of character and integrity who was respected for his leadership and humility," Sok said. "Matt was a confident, but quiet individual who led by example."
Sok said that Kantor "gave 100 percent" in his workouts and in competition. In his senior year, Kantor won the "Doc Pfeiffer Coaches Award" given to athletes for their determination and dedication. He was an honors student and an All-County fencer.
"His family, this community and our country has lost an outstanding young man," Sok said. "Our sympathy is with his family and friends."
Ken Kantor said that many dignitaries attended his son's funeral on Nov. 9 at Vincent de Paul Church in Stirling, including Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11, state Sen. Tom Kean, R-Morris, and Asm. Nancy Munoz, R-21. Kantor also noted that Gov. Christie signed an executive order to fly all American flags in the state at half-staff on that day to honor his son.
Ken Kantor said that area firefighters flew a large American flag from their truck ladders, saluting as the motorcade with Kantor and his family passed from the Valley Memorial Funeral Home to the funeral. Kantor is interred at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield.
"Every town along the way, police saluted everybody as we drove by," Kantor said. "The community has been tremendous, and so has the military."
Kantor said that Capt. Robert Smith, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group TWO, his son's team, spoke at the funeral, and met the family when they traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet his son's body as it was returned to American soil.
"We extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the families and friends of this true warrior who has paid the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom," Smith said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and shipmates during this very difficult time."
Kantor and his family were planning a trip Tuesday down to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where young Kantor was stationed, for a memorial service with his fellow SEALs.
￼At his son's funeral, Kantor read parts of a letter from his son's Navy SEALS team, calling young Kantor the "epitome of the "new generation" Navy SEAL".
"He was bright, talented, and widely respected by both peers and leaders alike," the letter continued. "A brave, selfless warrior who put others' needs above his own time and time again."
The team letter added that Matt was "generally reserved and quiet."
"But when he had something to say, people stopped and listened, because they knew it would inevitably be something extremely profound or something exceedingly funny," the letter said. "This is a (what) made Matt so valuable and cherised at SEAL Team FOUR."
The letter described Kantor's final operation.
"While on patrol, several insurgents mounted a complex machine gun attack on Matt and his team," the letter said. "Without fear or hesitation, Matt moved to protect his teammates and was mortally wounded by the bevy machine gun fire. His actions were directly responsible for saving the lives of his (team) and protecting the main body of the patrol."
"Matt was true to form in his last moments, a gallant and noble warrior who put his team above himself," the team said.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Kantor, 22, Navy SEAL, died in Afghanistan on Nov. 1, Kantor is the recipient of the Bronze Star medal with the "V" device awarded for acts of heroism, as well as the Purple Heart medal, Combat Action ribbon, Navy Commendation medal, Good Conduct medal, National Defense medal, Afghanistan Campaign medal, NATO medal, Navy Expert Pistol Shot medal and the Navy Expert Rifle Shot medal