As a former homecoming king, star athlete and volunteer firefighter who later joined the Army following the September 11th terrorist attacks, it’s hard to imagine a more respected individual than Dain Venne. That much was clear Tuesday when hundreds from his small hometown of Port Henry came out to say farewell to the fallen soldier. Matt Hunter reports.
PORT HENRY, N.Y. -- “Emotions are running high, feelings are raw,” Port Henry Fire Chief James Hughes said. “It’s just a tremendous, tremendous loss to lose someone that young with all that ability and it’s gone.”
Ask someone from his hometown of Port Henry to tell you a story about Dain Venne and many will recall his outlandish accomplishments as an all-state high school football star.
Fire Chief James Hughes prefers to talk about time last summer when Venne, a volunteer firefighter, helped rescue campers during the floods caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
“He was a very unique individual," said Hughes.” “He thought of others first and foremost before himself at every turn.”
Just 29 years old, Venne was the oldest of three Army Reserve soldiers from Upstate New York killed on November 2nd when their unit was attacked in Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, hundreds of friends, family and former comrades were joined by a sea of onlookers to pay their final respects.
“It’s unbelievably tragic but he was a soldier’s soldier,” said U.S. Army Captain Daniel McCarthy, who served in Venne’s unit until last year. “You know, that’s why people looked up to him.”
“It’s important to support our troops,” said Sgt. John Napier with the Vermont National Guard, who never met Venne. “I know I could’ve been in those shoes when I was in Afghanistan. I feel for him, I feel for his unit and I feel for his family.”
One hour before the funeral, Saint Patrick’s Church was filled to capacity. Many then made their way up the street to a nearby church to watch a video stream of the service. The outpouring of love and support was a final tribute to a man whose legacy will far outlast his too short life.
“It’s an unbelievable tribute, an unbelievable tribute to a great guy,” said McCarthy, whose younger brother also served with Venne in Iraq.
“It’s just a reflection on his family, how he was raised, how he carried himself,” Hughes said. “I can’t say enough about him, just a very good and outstanding young individual.”
As a Staff Sergeant, one of Venne’s responsibilities was to train new soldiers. Friends of his family say he was given the opportunity to come home a few days before he was killed but volunteered to stay and help a newly arriving unit.