Flag Flies for Jim Patton

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In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the 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.

“The district is proud to honor Mr. Patton for his bravery and service to the United States,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen. 

Mr. Patton was honored at a ceremony held on Sept. 11 at Hampton Bays Elementary School. During the ceremony, fourth-graders honored Mr. Patton and all the heroes of Sept. 11. The students also read Mr. Patton’s bio, recited patriotic poems that they had penned 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. 

Mr. 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, and worked there until his country called in October 1963.

In 1963, Mr. Patton was drafted and 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 (CORE-MAN).  After training, he was assigned to the 29th Evacuation Hospital in Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

The 29th Evacuation performed readiness tests. They loaded two-and-a-half ton trucks and trailers with all the supplies needed to set up a complete field hospital.  The drills were practice, but everyone in the 29th Evacuation Hospital knew that at any time the unit could be activated. 

On one drill, the 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 that Mr. Patton’s sleeping bag froze to the floor of his tent. On another drill, a general climbed into his truck and asked if he was ready. His answer without hesitation was “Yes, Sir!”  The 29th Evacuation did not deploy then, but was 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. His orders for Vietnam were cancelled 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, he 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. Mr. 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. 

Mr. Patton is a man deeply involved in 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. Mr. Patton has also always enjoyed sailing and fishing on Tiana Bay.