PORT HENRY — The golden notes of taps fell slowly, like warm tears on a cold face.
The Venne family was joined by hundreds of friends and neighbors as Port Henry native son Staff Sgt. Dain T. Venne was laid to rest.
Townspeople gathered at St. Patrick’s Cemetery ahead of the funeral procession and huddled in black dresses and dark suits, burying hands in their pockets to ward off the chilly November air.
It was a somber day, cast in gray and rolling clouds.
A grief-stricken community had made semicircles around a green canopy when the family arrived.
Six pallbearers, all soldiers, carefully moved the flag-draped casket from the hearse toward the grave in slow, pausing steps.
Their boots fell softly, keeping perfect time.
The white-gloved hands of all six clasped like knots behind their backs when their task was done.
At the front of Venne’s final resting place, two long rows of firefighters kept watch in sharp blue-and-black dress uniform.
They came from Port Henry, Moriah, Mineville, Witherbee, Ticonderoga and other nearby towns to pay final respects to a fellow fireman.
Venne served in the Port Henry Volunteer Fire Department.
Standing at right angles to the firefighters, about 30 men and women from all branches of the U.S. military stood straight and at attention. They came from Camp Lejeune and Fort Drum, among other bases.
Some wiped tears away when the brigade of bagpipers played “Amazing Grace.”
The day was a sequence of carefully planned events that moved mourners slowly through town, leaving enough room to give the family time to grieve in private.
Rows of sheriff’s deputies and State Police kept order and saluted as the procession moved past, first along Main Street to St. Patrick’s Church for Mass, before moving slowly up the hill to the cemetery.
Crowds rolled in waves up Broad Street toward Mineville, past old roadside oaks and maples wrapped in yellow ribbons.
The sense of loss in this small town was palpable, a sadness seemed caught in the air and sifted through the leafless trees.
“Devastation,” Ed Decker said in a word how it felt.
He was four years ahead of Venne at Moriah High School, but their families are lifelong friends.
“He was a great guy. He did anything for everybody,” he said, standing at St. Patrick’s Cemetery. “We worked together, in road construction. He was kindhearted and a hard worker — made everybody smile.”
‘HONOR, PEACE, LOVE’
Sharlene Joiner arrived ahead of the funeral procession, too.
The fallen soldier was one grade behind her son Cohen in school.
“He was very sweet. The whole family is,” she said quietly, her dark eyes searching.
“Dain got along with all of the kids, all sorts of kids; it didn’t matter if they were popular or not. He had a natural gift of kindness.”
“A great American — honor, peace, love,” Jenn Lee said, pinning a yellow ribbon to her father’s coat.
“If he could do something extra, he would,” Decker said thoughtfully.
And that is just what Venne was doing in Paktiya Province in Afghanistan when he was killed by a roadside bomb.
He had pushed back a planned leave to make sure his company was in good order before coming home.
Capt. Daniel McCarthy, an Army reservist, served with Venne in the same battalion until last year.
He said the service and ceremony Tuesday provided a show of respect for the fallen soldier and his family.
“He was a great soldier. He wanted to serve,” he said.
“He was an extremely stand-up guy. He was a soldier’s soldier. It’s unbelievably tragic.
“It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t had to be at war. The bond of brotherhood is so strong; you’re fighting for your brothers. Dain wanted to be there for his soldiers. And Dain was so dedicated, he wanted them to make it through. We all know the risks of what we’re going into.
“We’re proud to serve.”
Email Kim Smith Dedam: firstname.lastname@example.org