Father gathers money to commemorate fallen son
Men and women leave their homes every day not knowing if they will return. Against the troubles of the world, there stand the citizens who protect us, who keep us safe.
But, when one of those heroes pass away, how are you able to say “Thank you?”
One man decided to through one organization – Wreaths Across America, which aims to lay wreaths on veterans' graves across the nation.
Aiken resident Tony Venetz Sr. is aiming to fill Arlington Cemetery with these symbols.
In 2011, Venetz's son, Sgt. First Class Anthony Venetz Jr., died from injuries caused by a noncombat-related incident in Afghanistan. He was on his second tour in the country.
Anthony came from a line of military personnel. He is the first, though, to be buried at Arlington.
“How do you honor someone and keep their memory alive?” Tony wondered.
So, he turned to Wreaths Across America.
Ever since Labor Day, Tony has been out collecting money. He has set out sealed jars around town.
His goal is to raise $500. He already has collected more than $200 from the Aiken Newcomers Club.
All of money he raises will be donated to Wreaths Across America. He will collect the jars after Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11. The wreaths will be laid out at participating cemeteries on Dec. 14.
Anthony enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2001. He began as an infantryman and “quickly rose through the ranks,” Tony said.
Although school was never Anthony's forte, he took many classes while in the military, his dad said.
Tony, an Air Force veteran, encouraged this for Anthony as education in the military could “be a great steppingstone” to other paths.
Anthony became an engineer and intelligence officer. He earned two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts and four Army Commendation Medals, among other his recognitions.
When his funeral service was held, people packed Arlington. Visitors had come from California, Michigan and Florida “on their own dime,” Tony said.
That night, Tony gathered around remembering his son with his son's military comrades.
“It was quite interesting,” he said. “They took such pride in some of the foolish stunts they did with him.”
Tony has two daughters, but Anthony was the youngest and his only son.
“You lost a son, but you have all your sons here,” one soldier told Tony.
Anthony's two children and wife live in Texas.
Tony's jars are out at the following locations: Duke's BBQ, Carolina Bay Shooting Center, True Value Hardware, Up Your Alley Chop House, Aiken Golf Club, The Golf Club at Cedar Creek, Houndslake Country Club, Coach T's Diner, All American Barber Shop, Woodside Plantation and Birds & Butterflies.
There is also a page for Anthony on the Wreaths Across America website.
For more information, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and designs pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University.