Coins stolen from Boone County soldier's grave

Someone stole 16 "challenge coins" from Spec. Joseph Strong's grave.

THORNTOWN - The mother of a fallen soldier is making a plea to get mementos back from her son's grave.

Terri Batts noticed something missing when she visited the grave of her son, Specialist Joseph Strong, who died in Iraq almost five years ago.

"They were just put here over the years, last four years, and they were all taken," Batts said.

Sixteen challenge coins, typically given as tokens of appreciation, were left on Strong's tombstone in the Maple View Cemetery in Thorntown.

"It's just sentimental value. It's important to us that people cared enough about Joey to leave them for Joey, but it doesn't do anybody else any good," Batts said.

Strong was killed the day after Christmas in 2006, when the vehicle he was in rolled over near Baghdad. He is the only Boone County resident killed in action in the War on Terror. One of the coins was hand-delivered by his captain, who made the trip to Thorntown from his base in Alaska.

"Bring 'em back. Like I said, no questions asked, just bring 'em back. It will make her happy. It'll make him happy," said family friend Vickie Wilson.

When the Boone County prosecutor initially heard of the theft, he was saddened. But that sadness has turned to anger and now he's offering a cash reward for any information that leads to the coins' return.

"If the coins are returned, I won't ask any questions and I will decline filing charges," said prosecutor Todd Meyer. "However, if the coins aren't returned and I learn of who is responsible for this, then I'll prosecute the case to the fullest extent."

The prosecutor's office emailed Strong's mother about the reward Thursday night.

"I cried like a big baby," she said. "I thought, 'Well, people do care,' you know. I cried and I thought, 'Well, that is awesome.'"

For years, people have been dropping off mementos in honor of the 21-year-old Strong, who gave his life serving his country. This is the first time someone has taken something.

"They shouldn't have done it. Not to anybody, not just to Joey, not to anybody. You don't steal from somebody's resting place," said Batts.

Anyone with information is asked to contact either the Boone County Prosecutor's Office or Thorntown Police Department. The theft is considered a felony, with a prison term of up to three years and $10,000 fine.

But prosecution is the last thing on Terri Batts' mind - she just wants the coins back.