Respect to veterans: Teen creates a coin for every gravesite


Four years ago, Joshua Katz, a 12-year-old devoted Boy Scout, was at a Memorial Day ceremony at the South Florida National Cemetery in suburban Lake Worth passing out water to those thirsty from the heat. A penny on a headstone caught Katz’s eye.

“I took a picture of it and looked it up because I didn’t know what it meant,” said Katz, now 16.

READ: New ice cream store open on Lake Avenue in Lake Worth

He learned it was meant as a message to the deceased soldier’s family that someone else had visited the grave to pay respects.

He learned more: A nickel meant another soldier stopped by to visit. A dime meant a soldier served with the deceased soldier and a quarter meant that somebody was there when the soldier died.

While Katz, now an Eagle Scout, understood the practice of leaving coins, he wanted to do more.

“I spent my whole summer to come up with a way to make sure there was some kind of symbol of recognition on their headstones and that all the names were read aloud,” said the suburban Lake Worth resident.

That happened Saturday at the event Katz helped create, the fifth annual POW-MIA-OREE (Prisoner of War, Missing in Action, Outdoor Remembrance Educational Event) at the cemetery.

The event is to show respect for veterans and their families by having the names of every veteran interred at the cemetery read aloud. Also, a custom challenge coin will be placed on each headstone and marker for loved ones, to have as a keepsake to know their loved one has not been forgotten.

SEE ALSO: Callaro’s Steak House gets a $250,000 makeover

“My grandfather was a (Vietnam War) veteran and I didn’t know him very well and I always wanted to,” said Katz, a junior at G-Star School of the Arts for Film, Animation and Performing Arts. “Many people just forget about the sacrifices that soldiers make for people. I want people to remember and recognize the sacrifices they made for us.”

Kevin Ridgeway, assistant director at the South Florida National Cemetery, said the event has gained recognition throughout other national cemeteries that take part in the ceremony.

The POW-MIA-OREE event is held in five Florida cemeteries and will be in three cemeteries in Georgia next year, according to David Katz, Joshua’s dad.

David said his son raises about $9,000 to start each event, then raises $1,200 to maintain each one every year.

“He started with 16,000 coins and now he has about 200,000,” David said of the special coins used. “He was so upset about this. Every soldier should get recognized. I’m beyond proud of him.”

While Joshua was trying to come up with a unique idea to honor veterans, the 10-year Boy Scout used his Scout group for help.

“He said ‘I’m going to send different patrols out to different parts of the cemetery and we’re going to read the names and put the coins out there,’” David said. “He mailed out his pitch and we got a call two hours later from the director of National Cemeteries saying he wanted a meeting.”

LAKE WORTH READERS: Sign up for The Post’s weekly Lake Worth newsletter here

The meeting went well, and the event started in 2014.

Kirk Leopard, the cemetery’s former national director, said Joshua’s pitch at the meeting was awesome.

“He had a very earnest appreciation for what our soldiers and sailors have done for America, and he wanted to find a way to express that and give back to the community,” Leopard said. “To see that he’s still doing it now is just an incredible testament to him and his family.”

Greg Hauptner, G-Star’s CEO, said Joshua is totally dedicated to helping veterans.

“He has made helping veterans his top priority,” Hauptner said. “He’s charismatic and the kids love working with him.”

Joshua said he spends about 1,500 hours a year on the event. He does have a social life, though. He’s building a haunted house for his school.

In March, Joshua became the second person to receive the Legacy Keeper title, given to him by Undersecretary of Veterans Affairs for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves, for his dedication to sharing the legacy of America’s veterans.

College is just around the corner and Katz is still undecided where he wants to go. His first choice is Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota.

“I want to be an animator,” he said. “That’s pretty much it. I don’t have big ideas.”

Tell that to the more than 22,000 veterans interred at South Florida National Cemetery.

Follow Lake Worth reporter Kevin D. Thompson on Twitter at @kevindthompson1

Get Lake Worth news on our Lake Worth News Facebook page



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Live Updates: Rally for Puerto Rico at Mar-a-Lago, West Palm
Live Updates: Rally for Puerto Rico at Mar-a-Lago, West Palm

On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico, a caravan of protesters plan to drive by Mar-a-Lago on their way to a rally at Meyer Amphitheater in West Palm Beach.  The devastating storm resulted in severe power outages and the deaths of nearly 3,000 residents. It led to sharp criticism of President Trump and his...
Opera ‘food truck’ and other arts events receive PNC Bank grants
Opera ‘food truck’ and other arts events receive PNC Bank grants

Imagine ordering a taste of opera just as you do a snack from a food truck. In the fall of 2019, Palm Beach Opera plans to unveil Opera a la Cart, pop-up opera shows performed in a truck doubling as a stage at festivals, parks and other venues. The plan calls for a menu of opera excerpts from which audience members can make selections. The truck also...
Alaska man gets a 'pass' after pleading guilty to assaulting woman
Alaska man gets a 'pass' after pleading guilty to assaulting woman

An Alaska man escaped jail time Wednesday after pleading guilty to assaulting a woman who said he sexually assaulted and strangled her until she lost consciousness, KTVA reported. >> Read more trending news  Justin Schneider, 34, of Anchorage, was convicted on four felony charges -- including kidnapping and assault -- and a misdemeanor...
3D-printed gun creator wanted on child sex charge arrested at Taiwan hotel
3D-printed gun creator wanted on child sex charge arrested at Taiwan hotel

The creator of the 3D-printed gun was arrested Friday in Taiwan after being accused of sexual assault in Texas, CNN reported Saturday. >> Read more trending news  A warrant to arrest Cody Wilson, 30, was issued earlier this week after allegations that he had sex with a 16-year-old girl he met on an adult dating site, according to police...
More details released about 2-headed baby snake
More details released about 2-headed baby snake

A state herpetologist released new details about a two-headed baby Eastern copperhead snake found outside a home in Woodbridge, Virginia, WTVR reported. The snake was examined at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. >> Read more trending news  The center received the snake on Sept. 20, according to the center’s website. ...
More Stories