The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Katonah veteran receives honor for service

JOHN ROCHE PHOTO

Katonah resident James Thorne, who served two tours in Vietnam with the Navy, was inducted this week into the newly created 40th Senate District Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

 

By JOHN ROCHE
James Thorne, in a photo taken in 1967 aboard a boat sweeping for enemy mines in the Rung Sat zone in Vietnam.
 

For Katonah resident James Thorne, being inducted into the newly created 40th Senate District Veterans’ Hall of Fame is an honor he shares with every man and woman who ever served in the U.S. military.

“I’m very humbled and extremely honored to be recognized in this way,” said Mr. Thorne, 64, who served in the Navy and volunteered for two tours of duty in Vietnam. “But I also view this as an honor for every veteran, as well as everyone currently serving our country in the military.”

The Veterans’ Hall of Fame, created by Senator Greg Ball, honors outstanding veterans throughout the 40th Senate District, which includes Bedford, Pound Ridge, Peekskill, Cortlandt, Yorktown, Somers, North Salem and Lewisboro in Westchester, as well as all of Putnam and parts of Dutchess counties. 

Each municipality in the district was asked by Mr. Ball to nominate a veteran to be honored at a ceremony, which was scheduled to take place on Nov. 10. Earlier this fall, the Bedford Town Board passed a resolution nominating Mr. Thorne, who was recommended by American Legion Post 1575 in Katonah.

Mr. Thorne, a retired Danbury firefighter now working as an electrician, said this week that he was surprised to learn he was being inducted. “When I was first told about this, my initial reaction was ‘Why me?’ because there are so many veterans who deserve this more than I do,” Mr. Thorne said. “But after thinking it over and talking to my family, friends and other veterans, I realized that I will be representing all veterans in the Hall of Fame. So that makes the honor even more special for me.”

Mr. Ball, who is also hosting a first-of-its-kind Hudson Valley Veterans Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 12, said the honor is a fitting tribute for all veterans in his district, including Mr. Thorne. “James not only volunteered two tours of duty in Vietnam but he came home, where he further protected our families as a firefighter,” Mr. Ball said. “He is the epitome of an American hero, and we are honored to have him in the Inaugural Class of the Veterans’ Hall of Fame.”

During his four-year stint in the Navy, Mr. Thorne served on two destroyers, the U.S.S. Luce in the Mediterranean and the U.S.S. Lynde McCormick in the western Pacific before volunteering to serve in Vietnam.

After completing specialized training that included intelligence briefings, counter-insurgency, small arms training and a survival, escape and evasion course, Mr. Thorne was deployed to Nha Be, Vietnam. as a member of Mine Squadron 11 Detachment Alfa. There, Mr. Thorne and his unit patrolled the treacherous tidal swamps and interlocking streams of the Rung Sat Special Zone, also known as the “Forest of Assassins.”  

“Our primary mission was to patrol the rivers for enemy mines,” Mr. Thorne explained. “We were part of the riverine patrol force that was later referred to as the ‘Brown Water Navy.’”

When he was honorably discharged from the Navy as an electrician’s mate second class, he had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal/Service Ribbon and the Vietnam Service Medal/Ribbon with one bronze star.

Mr. Thorne, who has lived in Katonah for more than two decades with his wife of 26 years, Peggy, and their sons, Tommy, 24, and Jeremiah, 21, also made significant contributions to the Danbury Fire Department during his nearly 35 years of service. He was the first certified EMT in the history of that department, and helped to design the Danbury Fire School, having served as the department’s training officer for several years.

“When I look back on my time in the Navy, including my two tours in Vietnam, it’s not on the same level exactly, but it’s similar to how I think back on my years in the fire department,” Mr. Thorne said. “What sticks in your mind the most is the great people you served alongside, and the way we all worked together to get the job done, no matter how difficult that job might have been at times.”

Based on his service in the Navy and with the fire department, Mr. Thorne said he believes that every American should be encouraged to give back to their community and country in some way. “I’m not suggesting that everyone should serve in the military, but I do think that both the person that serves their town or country benefits as much as the town or country does,” he said. “I’m grateful that I had some opportunities to give back in my life.”

Mr. Thorne said he is also grateful to Mr. Ball for creating the Veterans’ Hall of Fame, and hopes it draws more attention to those who have served or are currently serving in the military. “Anything that can get some recognition for veterans is a good thing, in my opinion,” he said. “I think it’s more important than ever that we as a nation not only show respect for those who served and sacrificed for our country but also do what we can to ensure that their needs are being met now. We have veterans who aren’t receiving proper medical care or are living in poverty, and after they served and defended the freedoms we all enjoy in our country, that just isn’t right.”

Mr. Ball said the Hall of Fame is in step with his ongoing efforts in support of veterans. “There is so little we do, on a daily basis, to thank the men and women who put their lives on the line, and on hold, for this country,” the senator said. “This Hall of Fame is one small way to say thanks to a group of people we should all feel forever indebted to.”

Mr. Thorne also said that being inducted on the eve of Veterans Day adds to the significance of the honor. “I’ll be thinking of everyone I served with and really everyone who served our country, as I do every day, not just on Veterans Day,” Mr. Thorne. “As I said, being honored isn’t really about me, but every veteran. People might forget that I was inducted after a while, but I hope it will always be remembered that it was a proud veteran who was recognized.”



Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

 

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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

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Bedford Hills

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Katonah

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Mount Kisco

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Cross River

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November 10, 2011