When most U.S. veterans pass away, they're given full military honors. But there are a few that can't afford a casket or an urn.
So these military members who served this country are buried in a cardboard box.
Cathline Zaleski met her soul mate late in life. Andrew Barcia and Zaleski met through mutual friends, but there was an instant connection. Their fathers served in the Army. The couple was inseparable.
Then Barcia was diagnosed with cancer. After being together for seven years, he lost his life.
"He was kind to me. He loved me, and he was a very strong man," said Zaleski.
It's been almost a year since his death, and she's having a hard time moving forward. Zaleski couldn't afford a burial. So, instead, this World War II veteran was cremated and his remains placed in this cardboard box in her closest.
"I guess it's supposed to make you feel better. But I can't leave him in the closet forever," said Zaleski. She won't bury him because the box will eventually decompose.
Earlier this year, maintenance workers at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell discovered a World War II veteran had been buried in a shallow grave in a cardboard box.
"It's like you know you put kitty litter in a cardboard box, and you throw it out to the garbage," said Zaleski. "Is that how we value our vets?"
A senate bill would require the Department of Veteran Affairs to review its burial standards and would allow it to purchase caskets and urns for all veterans in our national cemeteries. But that bill could take months before it goes into effect.
So until then, Woodcrafters of Tampa is hand sculpting wooden urns.
"Recently, we approached the director of the Florida National Cemetery of Bushnell, and we now have it set where we're providing urns to them on a regular basis for indigent veterans," said Tom Jones.
A dozen of them have been donated to Bushnell and more are on the way.
As for Barcia, this military hero will be laid to rest in a customized wooden urn. In January, Zaleski will bury him in full military honors.
If you want to donate wood suitable for an urn or you want to become a member of woodcrafters of Tampa, visit their website at www.tampawoodcrafters.org.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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