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Michael Valente was born in St. Apollinare, Italy, on February 5, 1895, the son of Antonio Valente and Maria Palombo. On June 13, 1913, he passed through Ellis Island to go live in Utica but he ultimately settled in Ogdensburg, in New York State. Three years later, he entered the army and by September 29, 1918, he was serving in France as a private with Company D of the 107th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division.

On that day, his unit was participating in an assault on the Hindenburg Line east of Ronssoy when they were held up by intense machine gun fire. Many soldiers died. With another man, Michael Valente voluntarily moved forward and silenced two machine gun nests, attacked a trench, killed five Germans and captured 21 others before being wounded. For these actions, he was awarded United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor.

After the war, he married Margherita Marchello and moved to her native Newark, New Jersey, before settling in Long Beach where they raised three children. “My father was very proud, but he didn’t talk about it much,” Valente’s daughter, Josephine Cuneo, said of him. “He was wonderful, kind and soft-spoken. Unless other people told us about the medal, we would never have known.”

Valente died on January 10, 1976 and he is buried at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. The Long Beach City Council designated September 29 as a day in his honor.

Valente's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy during the operations against the Hindenburg line, east of Ronssoy, France, 29 September 1918. Finding the advance of his organization held up by a withering enemy machinegun fire, Pvt. Valente volunteered to go forward. With utter disregard of his own personal danger, accompanied by another soldier, Pvt. Valente rushed forward through an intense machinegun fire directly upon the enemy nest, killing 2 and capturing 5 of the enemy and silencing the gun. Discovering another machinegun nest close by which was pouring a deadly fire on the American forces, preventing their advance, Pvt. Valente and his companion charged upon this strong point, killing the gunner and putting this machinegun out of action. Without hesitation they jumped into the enemy's trench, killed 2 and captured 16 German soldiers. Pvt. Valente was later wounded and sent to the rear.”