American flags lined downtown Port Henry Monday to honor a fallen soldier from the lakeside community.
"Devastating, tough to handle," said Don Tesar. The Moriah football coach and family friend fought back tears as he paged through a yearbook looking at pictures of his former all-state running back, Dain Venne.
"He was an old school football player," said Thomas Anderson, a former football coach. "If he had the choice to break into the open field or run someone over, he would run someone over."
After graduating from Moriah in 2001, Venne enrolled at St. Lawrence University. He had dreams of becoming a teacher, but his career path changed after the 9/11 attacks. He joined the U.S. Army. "He didn't even hesitate. I remember him coming in and saying, 'I'm going, I want to serve my country,'" Tesar recalled.
Venne served one tour in Iraq. Then in July, the 29-year-old deployed to Afghanistan. On Saturday his mission was cut short. Venne was on a Humvee that was clearing improvised explosive devices from a convoy route when one exploded. Venne and two other soldiers died, another was injured. Moriah Town Supervisor Tom Scozzafava, a close family friend, spoke with the hometown soldier just before the deployment to ask why he was risking his life. Scozzafava remembered his reply: "'If you were there and saw the suffering from the innocent victims that are in this war torn country, the women, the children -- we absolutely need to be there,'" he said.
Staff Sgt. Venne turned down an opportunity to take leave and return to Port Henry last weekend. He wanted to remain in Afghanistan with his unit. "His dad was telling me he was worried about the new recruits and didn't want to leave them," Scozzafava said.
Venne was community oriented. He volunteered as a youth football coach at the high school. He was also a member of the Port Henry Volunteer Fire Department and was rewarded the 2011 firefighter of the year, in part, for his heroism in rescuing three people in chest deep water at the local campground during Tropical Storm Lee. "That's the type of person he was. It wasn't about Dain, it was what he could do for others," Scozzafava said.