Army Vet, 75, is Still Serving: Military Connection

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By Debbie Gregory.

A 75 year old Illinois Army veteran is recovering from stab wounds after saving the lives of 16 children when a knife-wielding teen stormed an Illinois public library.

James Vernon, a retired Caterpillar technology worker and Army vet, has been released from the hospital following surgery to repair two slashed arteries in his hand and damage to a tendon in his finger.

Vernon was leading a chess club meeting when 19 year old Dustin Brown burst into the room, wielding a knife in each hand and threatening to murder the children.

Vernon said the two knives were hunting types, with “fixed blades about 5 inches” long.

The children, who ranged in age from 7 to 13, took shelter under tables in the library’s conference room while Vernon stood in front of Brown. Vernon maneuvered himself between Brown and the conference room door, allowing the children to escape.

After all the children fled, the knife training Vernon learned in the Army five decades earlier kicked in. When Brown slashed from the right, Vernon instinctively blocked the blade with his left hand.

“I should have hit his wrist. That’s how you’re trained, but it’s been half a century,” Vernon recalled. “First rule of combat: Be fast and vigorous.”

Vernon was able to restrain Brown until a library employee removed the knives. Then the two together continued to restrain the attacker until police and paramedics arrived.

Brown, who at the time of the attack was free on bond awaiting prosecution on unrelated charges, was ordered held on $800,000 bond pending a court appearance on November 5th. He’s charged with attempted murder, armed violence, aggravated battery to a person over age 60, and burglary for entering the library with intent to commit a crime.

Vernon’s wife, Hanna, was proud of her husband’s heroic actions, but not surprised: “You need to take some responsibility for your community and your country.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.