Gold Star Wife Restores Husband’s Honor & Wins Against Army Bureaucracy

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An American Hero

Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz, was a soldier’s soldier.  Earning ‘Superior’ and  ‘Excellent’ time after time in his service reviews.   In 2010 he was deployed to Afghanistan and was injured in September.  He barely recovered from that injury before he was wounded again two months later.  Anthony was a Purple Heart recipient from his wounds.  He received a bronze star just 11 days before he was found dead.

When he was found dead in his quarters in January 2011, just two days before he was set to return home, many questions loomed.   Anthony was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.  It wasn’t until almost 7 months later that his death was ruled ‘not in the line of duty’ which meant a black scar on his service record and the denial of benefits for his family.

The pathologist found, “a deadly combination of opiates, a class of tranquilizers known as benzodiazepines and marijuana in his bloodstream” but there was no indication of prior drug use.  In fact, Anthony was known to be very against drugs, especially in the war zone.  Stories of incidents where he, raging mad, at a fellow soldier because he had drugs has ripped the packet from him and thrown it in the river.

His wife was determined to get to the bottom of her husband’s mysterious death and reclaim his reputation.  Anthony was excited to come home and was about to begin the jumpmaster school at Ft. Benning, Ga, where he knew he would be drug tested.

Nothing made sense and Debbie Venetz wanted answers.

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A Gold Star

She consulted through the ranks and got nowhere.  She was actually told by a commander at an event where they were honoring her husband with another Purple Heart, “I don’t think you are a Gold Star wife.”

To which she replied, “They actually already gave me a gold star.”

It took almost 5 ½ years for Debbie Venetz to clear her husband’s name and restore his benefits for his children.  She waded through bureaucracy, political obstacles, media nightmares and truly mean people.  But, she didn’t give up.  She took on the army and won.

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