RIVIERA, Texas — There's a group in Kleberg County, primarily made up of Winter Texans, doing their part to make sure every deceased veteran is honored in a way they deserve; especially those with no family.
“These people have served their country in whatever capacity for some period of time,” said U.S. Navy veteran Harvey Folse.
"These people" are unaccompanied veterans, and after reading how their remains were interred, Folse was moved to act.
“We saw an article that some unaccompanied veterans’ remains were placed in a plastic bag and then in a little box,” he said. “We can do better than that for our veterans. They deserve to be buried or interred with dignity and honor, so we came up with the idea for building these boxes.”
But he couldn’t do it alone, so Folse recruited others to his cause, like Mary Okins, a Winter Texan from Minnesota.
“Harvey reeled me in,” she said. “It’s for veterans — my husband’s a veteran — and it’s just a good thing to do for someone who doesn’t have anyone.”
Inside a wood shop at the Seawind RV Park, this group goes about its solemn task, making final resting places for unaccompanied veterans.
Over several weeks they cut, assemble, sand, and finish each square urn by hand.
In 2019, the group made 10 urns, all for the Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery. The next year, in 2020, they expanded their effort.
“We did 10 for each of the four military cemeteries in Texas,” Folse said.
Last year, their work extended beyond Texas, with urns being sent to veterans cemeteries in Missouri and New Mexico.
“These Winter Texans come down here, and to help down here in Texas for us, that needs a big 'Thank You,' ” said Kleberg Co. Pct. 3 Commissioner Jerry Martinez.
When Martinez heard about the group, he was happy to help. He started by finding them their work space.
“What they need, they call me, and I try to help them out as much as I can,” Martinez said.
“We’re lucky here because we have this building with woodworking equipment we can use,” said Folse.
The group also has sponsorship. This year, McCoy’s Building Supply provided the materials. The Riviera Telephone Company also chipped in.
Having set the example, Folse hopes his labor of love is a lesson for others.
“It’s not hard,” he said. “It’s just finding people who have the right motivation to find out what the need is and then put together a group that can do it.”
Officials at the Coastal Bend Veterans Cemetery say they love this project and appreciate the work the group does.
More Veterans In Focus stories are available here, along with resources for local veterans.