At the end of 2016, the Westhampton Free Library announced its 2017 initiative of honoring local veterans each month throughout the year. The library's first honoree was Korean War veteran Peter Cuthbert.
The library is closing out its initiative with its final honoree of 2017, James Dougherty, a thirty year-old technical sergeant of the 106th Rescue Wing. He has been a pararescueman for the past eight years and has served overseas in Iraq
, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. He is married to fellow 106th Staff Sergeant Lauryn Armusewicz, and together they have two sons.
"The Westhampton Free Library is honored to recognize Mr. Dougherty as its December Hometown Hero. Mr. Dougherty is a true American hero and role model," said library director, Danielle Waskiewicz, who spearheaded the idea with library trustees Mitchell Schecter and Mary Anne Yutes.
Dougherty enlisted a year after graduating from high school, and soon after became a full-time pararescueman--following in his father, Chief Master Sergeant Dougherty's, footsteps. "We start at boot camp - basic training - at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. From there we go to the pararescue indoctrination course, a ten-week selection course. It's ten weeks of calisthenics, swimming, running and water confidence," said Dougherty in an interview with the library.
As a result of his training, he is an accomplished swimmer and diver who described snorkel training as something akin to James Bond, "007" work. He was one of seven of 120 pararescue students to successfully graduate from his military parachutist school class.
Following his parachuting training, Dougherty completed an Air Force Pararescue EMT course in New Mexico and received EMT-Paramedic certification. His final chapter of training involved jumping out of a plane, traveling to a patient, stabilizing patient for transport, and moving to another site for pick up. Upon completion of this test, airmen are qualified for assignment to any Pararescue unit worldwide and earn the maroon beret.
Mr. Dougherty graduated in 2009, and ten months later was sent to Iraq for five months. Upon returning home, he continued his training with ice climbing in Colorado, technical rope rescue, recovery dive training, and high surf training in Hawaii. In fall of 2011, he was deployed to Afghanistan to treat serious and critical injuries. "We would fly three to four missions per day doing those rescues. There was a lot of bad stuff, a lot of amputations - very traumatic injuries from pressure plate IEDs," said Dougherty. "We did a lot of good work there - very advanced medical treatment for paramedic level providers."
Most recently, Dougherty used his exemplary rescue skills on the homefront in Texas as a responder during Hurricane Harvey. He flew to Texas with the 106th Rescue Wing and surveyed the land looking for people stranded in the floodwaters. The first day, they made 19 rescues and in total rescued more than 500 people in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Currently, Mr. Dougherty is serving as the Junior Vice Commander at VFW Post 5350 in Westhampton Beach. In 2013, he was one of six New York Air National Guardsmen to receive the Bronze Star of Valor for his courage during a mission in Afghanistan.
The Westhampton Free Library is a not-for-profit with the mission of serving the community, cultivating knowledge, and inspiring lifelong learning. For more information and to see the library's 2017 honorees, please visit http://westhamptonlibrary.net/.