Fallen vets buried with dignity thanks to local vet

ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- A Clay County veteran uses his time and talent to honor the remains of fallen soldiers.

Mike DelPizzo served in the United States Air Force for more than 20 years. In his spare time today, he enjoys restoring old cars and woodwork.

But in the fall of 2012, his hobbies took on new purpose after reading a newspaper article that he said bothered him instantly.

"It was about the remains of a cremated veteran being buried in a cardboard box. That's a heck of a way to be put to rest," he said.

As a veteran himself, DelPizzo knew he had to do something to make a difference.

He said he called the Jacksonville National Cemetery and learned many local families do not have the means to pay for an urn for their cremated veterans.

"For whatever reason, untimely deaths, lack of planning, monetary reasons, they don't have them," DelPizzo explained.

DelPizzo began taking planks of wood and handcrafting them into urns using a small work space in his own garage.

"I'm restoring an old car out there, but I sidelined that project because this means way more to me," he laughed.

Each urn is 10" x 7.25" x 7.25" and is finished with multiple coats of primer. Each one also receives a military seal for whichever branch the veteran served in while they were alive.

"They're really not that complicated. They're really pretty simple," DelPizzo explained about the process.

The urns are also time consuming and expensive.

DelPizzo said even though making one takes about 10 hours, he cares more about the finished product.

"I suppose the main reason why I'm doing it, and this is going to sound selfish, but it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good that I'm able to reach out and help someone who needs the help," he said.

From one veteran to another, the urns are his way of giving back to those who have already given it all.

DelPizzo said, "I'll continue to do it until there's no longer a need."

To date, he said he has finished 140 urns with requests still coming in from across the country.

He tries to stay ahead of the curve so grieving families do not have to wait or delay their loved ones' burial.

DelPizzo does take donations, but asks that you contact reporter Jacob Long at jlong3@firstcoastnews.com.


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