Stars and Stripes
By Dianna Cahn
Published: August 21, 2016
WASHINGTON — In the eight years that her husband deployed repeatedly to Iraq and Afghanistan, she learned to be good at not having him around. So when the knock came to tell her that Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz wouldn’t make it back from Afghanistan that last time, she was prepared, even in her grief, to pick up the pieces.
Debbie Venetz wore white to his funeral — she didn’t care whether people thought she was crazy. The 29-year-old widow wanted to celebrate her husband and let their 7- and 3-year-olds know that while they will miss Daddy, life will go on.
But nothing could have readied her for the nearly six-year battle ahead to restore her husband’s honor and secure benefits for their family.
Debbie took on the Army.
She faced down a withering backlash as she pressed for a more thorough investigation into his death. She sought powerful allies — colonels and generals — to push the case forward. But mostly, she never stopped believing that her husband died the way he lived as a Green Beret — honorably and in service to his country.
The mission to conduct outreach with local villages had met with resistance. He’d been wounded twice on that deployment alone and had earned a Bronze Star with “V” device for valor for remaining in a firefight for two days after he was shot in the leg on Sept. 29, 2010. He showed “selflessness, dedication to duty and courage under fire,” according to his medal citation, and helped to repel the enemy and save lives “in keeping with the finest traditions of military heroism.”
That medal was awarded to him Jan. 17, 2011 — 11 days before his death.
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Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz receives a Purple Heart in Afghanistan in October 2010, just months before his death. COURTESY OF DEBBIE VENETZ