Florida man offers casket for veteran found buried in cardboard box
June 6, 2012
ORLANDO - The discovery of a World War II veteran buried in a cardboard box at a military cemetery prompted a Florida man to offer a free casket. The Florida National Cemetery told U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office a short time ago it will accept the offer – and, hold a new memorial service for the veteran who died eight years ago.
Gene Whitfield, a Florida funeral home operator, called Nelson’s office two days ago, after a Fox News account of workers discovering the cardboard box after they removed a headstone at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell during routine maintenance.
The veteran, named Lawrence Davis Jr., died in 2004 and had no loved ones to make funeral arrangements for him. He was buried in a shallow grave with no casket. The medical examiner sent Davis' remains in a cardboard box, and they were buried in the same box.
Nelson was quoted in the recent FOX News report as saying, "We're not going to treat the veterans of this country that way. We're going to ensure there is a dignified burial."
Upon seeing the news accounts, Whitfield called Nelson’s office Monday and offered the casket. Whitfield owns a funeral home and cremation service in Zephyrhills, Florida.
Nelson’s office got in touch with the director of the Florida National Cemetery that day. The director pledged to check on it; and, a cemetery representative called Nelson’s office back today. A Nelson aide conferenced in Whitfield, who was told the cemetery was authorized to accept Whitfield’s donation. A new memorial service will be scheduled in the near future, according to Nelson’s office.
Sens. Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), along with the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Patty Murray (D-WA), and ranking member, Richard Burr (R-NC), are sponsors of a new bill called The Dignified Burial of Veterans Act of 2012. It would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to review its burial standards and would authorize it to purchase caskets or urns for all veterans in our national cemeteries.