By LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — PORT HENRY — As the hearse carrying Staff Sgt. Dain Venne’s casket passed Moriah Central School on Tuesday afternoon, the entire football team stood on the lawn, holding their helmets aloft as a show of respect.
The 29-year-old Port Henry native, who had played football as a student and had been a volunteer coach there, was killed in action on Nov. 3 in Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device went off near his Humvee.
Hundreds of mourners came to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church Tuesday to bid farewell to the U.S. Army Reserve staff sergeant at his funeral.
The Rev. Albert Hauser celebrated the funeral Mass, praising Venne for his humility and compas-sion for others.
GIANT FLAG WAVED
The crowd outside St. Patrick’s was estimated at about 500 people, many of them soldiers, veterans, firefighters and law-enforcement personnel, along with members of the community.
So many attended the funeral that an overflow area was set up at Lake Champlain Bible Fellowship two blocks away, and a closed-circuit television feed transmitted the Mass live from St. Patrick’s. About 250 people were in the church.
Venne was remembered as a warm and kind individual who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
“Dain was a wonderful young man,” Moriah Town Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava said before entering the church. “This is a terrible tragedy for his family and for the community. Everyone is pulling together, though. The town is like a family when something like this happens.”
On Main Street during the funeral, a giant American flag flew from the extended ladder of the MacBoston 18 truck from Washington County, a memorial vehicle used to give tribute to fallen firefighters.
FULL MILITARY HONORS
Friends said Venne enjoyed hunting and fishing and was a motorcycle enthusiast who encouraged others to take up the sport.
Venne was buried in St. Patrick’s Catholic Cemetery in Moriah, where a contingent of soldiers from Fort Drum gave him a 21-gun salute and burial with full military honors.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had ordered that flags on state government buildings be flown at half-staff in honor of Venne and the other two soldiers who died.
Venne is survived by his parents, Brian and Laura Venne of Port Henry; his girlfriend, Kelly Bascomb of Cobleskill; one brother, Lucas; and a sister, Brianna. His father is a Moriah town justice, and his mother is a teacher at Moriah Central School.
Dain had attended Plattsburgh State, St. Lawrence University and Clinton Community College. He was at St. Lawrence when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred, and he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve soon afterward.
“He wanted to help his country when it was attacked,” Scozzafava said.
Dain served one tour in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, assigned with the 444th Engineer Company of Oswego. He’d been due to return home soon for the holidays.
Between deployments, he was employed by Kubricky Construction Co. of Glens Falls and was a member of the Port Henry Fire Department.
One of his instructors at Plattsburgh, Assistant Professor of History Richard Schaefer, was an adviser to Dain when he was enrolled there.
“I have to say, I am saddened to talk about it, and I have done a lot of it lately,” Schaefer said. “In truth, I knew Dain as a student and advisee almost four years ago now. I remember him as a good student with a keen mind and excellent work ethic.”
He said Dain was a pleasure to have in class.
“He was also a kind and gentle presence, in the classroom and out.”
Venne was part of a unit clearing a path for a convoy in the Patkin Province of Afghanistan when the lead vehicle tripped the actuator for the IED, the Pentagon said. It exploded as Venne’s Humvee passed, killing him, Spc. Ryan P. Jayne, 22, of Campbell and Spc. Brett E. Gornewicz, 27, of Alden. A fourth soldier, Kale Clifton, 23, of Smyrna, was injured.
“This is something you think will never happen, until it happens,” said Scozzafava, who was spokesperson for the family.
“Dain Venne was a true American hero.”
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