A World War II veteran who died in 2004 and whose remains were buried in a cardboard box at the Florida National Cemetery is going to get a proper resting place after a Good Samaritan pledged to donate a casket, according to news reports.
The shocking discovery of the cardboard box was made by cemetery workers who removed a headstone while doing maintenance work, HLN affiliate WTVT in Tampa Bay, Florida, reported last week.
HLN’s calls to the cemetery weren’t returned, but Josephine Schuda, a spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told HLN: “The veteran went missing in 2002 and his skeletal remains were found in 2004. These incomplete skeletal remains were interred as cremated remains at Florida National Cemetery in 2005.”
“Because there were no known next of kin, the Highland County Sheriff’s office and the medical examiner’s office were responsible for making decisions regarding the final disposition of the remains,” Schuda said. “The funeral home that received what was left of the skeletal remains from the medical examiner’s office placed them in a 2 ft. by 1 ft. by 1 ft. cardboard box; no cremation took place.”
The veteran was identified as Lawrence Davis, Jr., according to media outlets.
The revelation that some U.S. veterans -- those with no family or loved ones to make funeral arrangements on their behalf -- are buried in cardboard boxes that come from the medical examiner’s office has outraged some members of Congress.
"We're not going to treat the veterans of this country that way. We're going to ensure there is a dignified burial," Florida Senator Bill Nelson told WTVT.
“That's what I put a pet in,” Rep. Rich Nugent told the Ocala Star-Banner newspaper recently. “I don't think that's a fitting burial. That's a benefit that an individual has earned through his service to our country.”
But then came some good news: Gene Whitfield, a Florida funeral home operator, got in contact with Nelson’s office and offered a free casket, according to the senator's website.
The Florida National Cemetery said it will accept the offer -- and even hold a new memorial service for Davis.
Several Florida senators are behind new legislation called "The Dignified Burial of Veterans Act of 2012," which would require the VA to examine its burial standards.