Nearly a week after a decorated Army Special Forces soldier from Wading River died in a noncombat-related incident in Afghanistan, military officials are still investigating and have not released a cause of death.
Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr., 30, who earned two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts during three combat tours, died Friday at Bagram Air Field, the main U.S. airfield in Afghanistan some 25 miles north of Kabul.
His father, Anthony Venetz Sr., said not knowing how his son died has added to his grief.
"We don't know, and that's the hard part," his father told the Fayetteville Observer on Monday. "Right now, I'm trying to deal with the fact that he's gone. That's the part I haven't even begun to believe yet."
The elder Venetz said his son had previously been wounded twice in combat, suffering a gunshot wound to the leg in September, and later a concussion when a Humvee he was riding in was hit by a roadside bomb. Venetz served two tours in Iraq and his current deployment began in Afghanistan last year.
Venetz grew up on Wading River's Long Pond Road, and excelled in soccer at Shoreham-Wading River High School. He graduated in 1999, said Jon Cole, 30, of Wading River, who knew Venetz from childhood and who played with him on school soccer teams.
"He was a defensive stopper who would play the other team's best scorer," Cole said. "He was quick, fast and physical, always played hard, always led by example."
After completing Special Forces training in March 2009, he was assigned to A Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group.