Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Vietnam War veteran Jim Patton by flying an American flag in his honor throughout the month of September. This continuing the district’s mission started last school year to take history out of the textbooks and honor a local veteran each month.
“The district is proud to honor Mr. Patton for his bravery and service to the United States,” Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen says in the announcement sent last week.
Hampton Bays Elementary School hosted a ceremony for Patton on Monday, September 11, during which fourth-graders paid respects to the veteran and all the heroes from the 9/11 terror attacks. Students also read Patton’s bio, recited their own patriotic poems and sang “Don’t It Feel Good,” an original song written by Mike Piliero.
The ceremony culminated with the raising of the flag on the district’s flagpole.
Patton was born in September 1940. He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and attended New York City College of Technology where he received an Associate of Applied Science degree in electrical technology. After graduation, he was hired as an electronic technician at Hazeltine Corporation, an electrical defense contractor, where he worked until his country called in October 1963.
After Patton was drafted that year, he was sent to Fort Dix in New Jersey. Given his background in electronics, he expected to attend Radar School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, but that did not happen. Instead, due to a critical need for medics, he was ordered to Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where he spent eight weeks qualifying as a medical corpsman. After training, Patton was assigned to the 29th Evacuation Hospital in Fort Devens, Massachusetts.
The 29th Evacuation performed readiness tests, loading 2.5-ton trucks and trailers with all the supplies needed to set up a complete field hospital. They were practice drills, but everyone in the 29th Evacuation Hospital knew that at any time the unit could be activated.
During one drill, Patton’s unit drove to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and set up a full 400-bed hospital in total darkness on a night so cold his sleeping bag froze to the floor of the tent.
The 29th Evacuation was eventually ordered to Vietnam in 1967.
In 1964, Mr. Patton was assigned to the Amphibious School at Norfolk Naval Base where he spent four weeks learning to load transport ships. Always a good student, he graduated fourth in a class of 33. By 1965, he had earned a promotion to Specialist E5 along with new orders. This time, the orders were to go to remote areas of Vietnam to provide medical aid for village people. In preparation, he had extensive dental work done as there would be nowhere for him to receive dental care should he require it in the jungle.
However, that plan also changed. Patton’s orders for Vietnam were canceled on the date he was to ship out, and he was routed back to Fort Devens to head up the base ambulance service. In September 1965, he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal and in October 1965 was honorably discharged and returned to work at the Hazeltine Corporation, initially as an electronic technician, but rising to supervisor for defense contract work.
After Hazeltine, Patton managed a Radio Shack in East Patchogue for nine years.
In 1994, he returned to school, first taking business courses at Southampton College, then taking computer courses at Dowling College where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in computer information systems. Patton has been an active member of the Hand Aldrich American Legion Post 924 for the past 42 years where he has served as a member of the Post Honor Guard and as the Blue Star Banner Chairman for the post.
Patton is a man deeply involved with his community. He was Grand Marshal of the 2017 Hampton Bays Memorial Day Parade and has been active in the St. Rosalie’s Knights of Columbus, the Irish American Society and the Peconic Bay Power Squadron. He has also always enjoyed sailing and fishing on Tiana Bay.