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Posted November 5, 2018

VHS Students Create Urns for Forgotten Heroes

The urns serve as a final resting place for homeless and indigent veterans.

Gino Perez's wood and metal shop at Valley High School handcrafted wooden urns to hold the remains of U.S. military veterans. The class made 18 urns adorned with the symbols of all branches of the military. Earlier this year, nine of those urns became the final resting place for homeless and indigent veterans.

The Forgotten Heroes Burial Program provides a full military funeral for honorably discharged veterans who die in New Mexico if there are no family member or friends to claim their remains.

The veterans' remains have historically been placed in black cardboard boxes. Perez wanted to offer them something more dignified. A Navy veteran himself, the Valley teacher got his three shop classes of mostly freshmen to complete the boxes during the first few weeks of school.

"I've never seen a group of students engage in a project like this. Even students that were down on the military for whatever reason -- they've all got their politics -- would say we're doing a good thing," Perez told CNN.

During a solemn assembly at the school in September, the students' work was recognized as the veterans' remains were placed in a hearse and turned over to the state Department of Veterans' Services. They traveled to the Santa Fe National Cemetary where they received a full military funeral.

On any given night in America, there are more than 40,000 homeless veterans, according to the latest estimate by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


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