We have lost our first local soldier in Afghanistan, and the war is suddenly more real, more personal.
On Saturday, three soldiers died, as too many have in the Middle East, when an Improvised Explosive Device exploded as they were clearing the route for a combat patrol. The loss in the Paktia Province was felt many miles away in the North Country because one of the soldiers was our own Dain Venne, who grew up and lived in Port Henry.
We can only imagine the intense anxiety felt by his parents, Brian and Laura, when they opened the door to see military officers standing there — the greatest fear of anyone whose child is serving in a war zone. The news was heart-breaking, and we hope the Vennes take some small comfort in knowing that many people around the area share their sorrow.
Their son is a hero in many ways, not just because he died in combat but because of his strong patriotism and the empathy he felt for the people of Afghanistan. When thinking of our soldiers in the Middle East, it is easy — because of the lingering effects of the Vietnam War — to conjure images of soldiers forced against their will to fight for a cause they don’t believe in.
That is not the situation with many soldiers, and it certainly wasn’t with Dain Venne. A bright student and standout athlete at Moriah Central School, he was attending St. Lawrence University when the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks shocked this nation. Like most Americans, he felt a surge of patriotism: The country he loved had been violated.
And Dain did something about it. He enlisted in the Army Reserve and became a combat engineer. He served his country for 10 years and nine months on a dangerous mission before fate caught up with him last Saturday.
He didn’t have to be there that day. He had deployed in June but had a chance to come home last month. He had already served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and certainly could have returned feeling he had done more than most Americans to serve his country.
But he stayed to help train other soldiers. Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava told us that he had talked with Dain before he left for Afghanistan, asking him why he wanted to return to a war zone.
Dain told him: “If you could just see the horror so many innocent victims in this war-torn country live through daily ...”
He wanted to do his part, not just for America but for the people of Afghanistan. And that is what makes him a true hero.