By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — PORT HENRY — A huge gathering of residents and area firefighters lined the streets of Port Henry Sunday afternoon as U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Dain Venne’s body was returned to the community he loved.
Sgt. Venne, 29, was killed in combat in Afghanistan on Nov. 3 when a roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee.
The Port Henry native’s casket was flown from Dover (Del.) Air Force Base to Plattsburgh International Airport Sunday morning, where it was met by representatives of his family and Harland Funeral Home of Port Henry.
He received a law enforcement escort from the airport to Port Henry, and as the procession entered the village on Route 9N from the north, Main Street was lined with local citizens, firefighters and emergency-medical volunteers.
Many residents held small American flags and firefighters held their helmets over their hearts as the vehicles passed.
Workers from the Port Henry Village Department of Public Works donated their time, placing American flags in locations throughout the downtown.
The MacBoston aerial-ladder truck, which travels in support of 9/11 victims, was positioned in front of Port Henry Village Hall. The truck was flying a giant American flag over Main Street.
The convoy of family, Funeral Home, State Police, Moriah Town Police and Essex County Sheriff’s Department vehicles arrived in Port Henry from Plattsburgh at about 12:45 p.m.
Motorcyclists from the Combat Veterans Association and other groups also gave Venne, an avid rider himself, an escort through Port Henry to the Funeral Home.
“We had to come,” veteran Doug Mauran of Moriah said, standing next to his motorcycle before the procession arrived. “He’s a combat veteran. He was going to join our group when he came home (from Afghanistan).”
Venne loved to ride his own motorcycle, Mauran said.
“He was a nice kid, low key, soft spoken. He was brought up well. His parents had good moral values.”
Sgt. Venne’s father, Brian, is a Moriah town justice, and his mother, Laura, teaches biology at Moriah Central School.
Dain Venne was a member of Port Henry Fire Department, whose members turned out in force with firefighters from Moriah, Ticonderoga, Barneveld and other departments. A firefighter from the Barneveld department, north of Utica, had served with Venne and brought that fire company to the village Sunday.
Venne had received a firefighter commendation award for rescuing three campers at Port Henry Village Campground during Tropical Storm Irene last August.
Village Mayor Ernest Guerin said he was at the campground when floodwaters from Lake Champlain and a nearby stream overtook it.
“We went into the campsite to get those people, and Dain carried them on his shoulders, carried them to the firetruck through waist deep water.”
Former Port Henry fire chief Jack Waldron said he knew and respected Venne, as did everyone who knew him.
“He was a good boy. He knew the facts of life. He loved children. He’s a hero.”
He said he and other firefighters will remember Venne as long as they live.
“He was a friend, a soldier and a hero.”
Two other soldiers died with Venne, and a fourth was injured.
Venne’s funeral will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Port Henry. Calling hours are today from 4 to 8 p.m. at Harland Funeral Home.
Email Lohr McKinstry: firstname.lastname@example.org