Palm Coast People: Cathy Heighter keeps trying to help veterans

In July 2003, Cathy Heighter heard a knock at the door. A knock that no military family ever wants to hear. She opened the door to the news that her 20-year-old son was killed in the line of duty in Iraq.
“I truly did not understand what it meant until I got the knock on my door. In that moment, I understood what ‘Thank you for your service’ meant,” Heighter said.
That grim day forever changed Heighter’s perspective. Not wanting pain and tragedy to define her, Heighter decided to channel her grief into helping other families through charitable work.
“It’s the way I live my life. It is my passion. If I can help someone along the way, then my living is not in vain,” Heighter said.
Since then, she has rallied for change in military death benefits, funded college scholarships and founded a local charity. She wants other families to “understand that we can heal.”
Heighter was recently elected to Palm Coast City Council. She hopes to be a voice for the community.
She would like to see more activities for young people and more affordable housing for working-class families and senior citizens
“There’s such a need to make it where people can afford to buy a home for their families and also to achieve some of that American Dream,” said Heighter.
Heighter realized the need for increased death benefits for service members when her son only received a $10,000 death benefit and $3,333 for funeral expenses. His funeral cost was more than $9,000.
“They were brave enough to serve their country and lay their life on the line to serve American people. This country owes our heroes, our troops, a debt that can never be repaid,” said Heighter. “It took me having to lose my son to understand that.”
With the encouragement of her congressman, she submitted a bill named The Raheen Tyson Heighter Life Insurance for America’s Troops Act. She even rallied George W. Bush’s support for the bill when she met him twice in 2004. Although Heighter’s bill sparked the movement, the death benefit for service members was eventually increased through the Heroes’ act.
Heighter’s son joined the armed forces with plans to use the educational grant to pursue a future in investment banking. To honor his memory, she funded a scholarship and has awarded thousands of dollars to graduating seniors.
In 2015, Heighter co-founded a local charity. Initially named Remembering Vets, the foundation was later changed to Remembering Heroes. The charity’s mission is to support veterans, retired and active-duty armed forces members, Gold Star military families, first responders, and other local hometown heroes.
Remembering Heroes offers mentoring services and is involved with local Veteran Courts. They installed the Invisible Wounds Memorial at Heroes Memorial Park in Palm Coast in 2016. The charity also has a “Quilt of Honor” program that presents patriotic quilts to local heroes in honor of their service and sacrifice.
On Sept. 30, Remembering Heroes will hold its 3rd Annual Fall Festival at Town Center Central Park in Palm Coast. The charity will also host a Pig Roast on April 29 and a Creative Wellness Day on June 10.
Heighter hopes to soon open a health and wellness ranch for local heroes. She has purchased land in Bunnell with plans to develop it.
“I could not imagine living my life any other way than I have over the last 20 years – to keep my promise to my son, to honor my son and other service members,” said Heighter.