Local woodworker sells his truck to fund free memorial boxes for grieving military families
A Paso Robles master craftsman has created a poignant and tangible way of expressing his appreciation and sympathy for families of service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country – the Fallen Soldiers Memorial Box. For David Bouillez, a former Hollywood movie set builder turned fine woodworker, the idea for making the highly detailed cherry wood keepsake boxes seemed to come out of the blue.
“I had just finished making a wooden jewelry box for my girlfriend Susan, and she was admiring it as we watched the evening news,” said Bouillez, who operates DB Custom Woodworking and makes engraved humidors, wine boxes and cheeseboards for clients to help pay the bills. “The lead story discussed the latest American casualties in Afghanistan, and the idea seemed to hit us at the same time – why not design a really special keepsake box we could offer at no charge to grieving families who have just lost a son or daughter in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
That was over a year ago, and Bouillez has committed all of his energy and most of his resources to making his non-profit Fallen Soldier Memorial Box Program a reality. He even sold his pickup truck to raise money for a state-of-the-art woodworking machine in order to keep up with the requests for his memory boxes. “Selling my truck is nothing compared to the loss and sorrow these people feel,” he said. “This is a labor of love for me, so woodworking creations must be perfect in every detail.”
Not only does Bouillez count on the generosity of the public, but the woodworking industry and other businesses as well. For example, Laguna Tools based in Irvine, California, specified a new CNC I.Q. Machine at below market cost to help him streamline operations. They are also helping promote his Fallen Solider Memorial Box mission on the company website, LagunaTools.com.
“We do whatever we can to support causes that solute our military,” said Catherine Helshoj, Vice President at Laguna tools – a long-time contributor to the Wounded Warriors Project. “About ten percent of our staff are former military personal, so the wonderful work that David is doing strikes a chord with our company.”
Bouillez needs all of the donations he can get, since materials for every meticulously crafted work of art costs about $125 per box. The Fallen Soldier Memorial Boxes measure about 15 x 10 x 8 inches deep, and are built with exclusively American hardware, materials and wood. “Nothing is nailed together, everything is strictly tongue n’ groove workmanship, with eight different wood pieces integrated for the front of the box alone,” he said. “We handcraft the boxes with solid joinery; pewter handles on the sides, and use a velvet-like material for the lining. The ultimate goal is to offer a box to every family that has lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
The Fallen Memorial Boxes also feature an engraved American Flag on the top, the appropriate insignia (depending on branch of service), a stirring silhouette depiction of a fallen solider, and is engraved with the hero’s name. And so far, demand is outstripping donations by a wide margin for these poignant and memorable gifts.
“We have our boxes on display at various wineries in the area, and donations are also coming in from our Facebook page at Facebook/Memory Box Project, as well as our website at www.memoryboxesproject.com,” he said. “But we need additional donations to keep up with the requests we’re getting, especially this time of year. I only wish I had another truck to sell.”
Bouillez has been getting feedback from some families who proudly displaying the Fallen Memorial Boxes in their homes, and filling them with all manner of mementoes – from grade school report cards and athletic ribbons to pictures of them enjoying their favorite activities. “It’s just a positive way that people can share and treasure the love and loss of their sons and daughters in a very respectful way,” he added.
If you are interested in making a donation to the Fallen Memorial Soldiers Memorial Box fund, or would like to learn more about the program, go to www.memoryboxesproject.com, visit them at Facebook/Memory Box Project, or call (805) 221-5087.