by: Erica Bennett Updated:
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Thirteen veterans; five spouses: All have been laid to rest thanks to the Missing in America Project and a man named Mike DelPizzo.
In 2012, the retired airman heard the remains of a service member was buried in a cardboard box -- and decided to get involved.
"I shared that article with my wife and said: 'That's a heck of a way for a G.I. to be laid to rest,’" he said.
From there, DelPizzo called the Jacksonville National Cemetery and learned there was a shortage of urns. He got in his shop and started making sturdy boxes out of cypress, oak, black cherry, mahogany and even pine.
"It takes a lot of time and effort, but I don't mind doing it," he continued.
Most of the vets buried today served in World War II. DelPizzo served as a pallbearer so got to see his work firsthand.
"There was a need for it. I enjoy doing it and it occurred to me while I was making them, these urns will be around a lot longer than I'll be here."
DelPizzo says between 30 and 40 funerals take place at the national cemetery each week, meaning he'll busy for awhile. On average, he can make 20 boxes in 25 hours -- a labor of love he's willing to go through time and time again.
"As long as they have a need, I'll keep on doing it."
To date, DelPizzo has made 160 urns. Dozens of people have sent money for his material costs, and a sign shop in Orange Park even donated decals so that each veteran's branch of service is made clear on their urn.
The next Missing in America Project burial is scheduled for November, right around the Week of Valor.