Teens Serve as Pall Bearers for Homeless Veterans

By Faye Higbee

The Marine Corps Times reported today that a group of teens from The University of Detroit Jesuit  High School/Academy are volunteering  to serve  as pallbearers at the funerals of homeless veterans.

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Photo credit- University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy

Alone No Longer

Men who have served our nation, yet die alone on the street with no one at their side… it is a heartbreaking scenario. But the teens in this program are learning valuable lessons in compassion and honor, with a way to return the service  of these men to America, even if the families and friends could not be there. Estimates are that there are 40,000 to 50,000 homeless veterans in the country today.

“This was an opportunity to give something to someone who finished their life on the fringe of society. These veterans were men I had never met, but they helped make the country I live in safer and stronger. No matter who they were or what they did on earth, every person deserves a proper burial.” Tom Lennon,  17

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Student pallbearers from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy

Last week, three homeless veterans were laid to rest with the students’ help from the boys only Jesuit Prep school. The funerals were the first in a new program that utilizes approximately 50 students in the school’s service team. More students have signed up for the service program for the next training in November.

“I know that these people had loved ones and, whether or not these loved ones could be there to say goodbye, it does not change the fact that everyone deserves a proper burial…During the funerals, while listening to the eulogies, I heard a particular statement that I feel was very important. ‘While you didn’t know him by name or sight, we are all here today to recognize his service to our country.’ I realized that none of us present knew anything about the deceased. However, we were all there to pay them respect for serving our country. After that, I felt a sense of peace and was thankful that I was able to be a part of the services.” Nick Bendetto, 17

The program is student led and partners with local funeral homes for the remains of veterans that have gone unclaimed for 90 days. The Dignity Memorial Network provides caskets for homeless veterans, but there is often no one to carry them. These students have stepped up to the plate.

These students are learning “de his qui serviebant” – respect for those who served. And that is a valuable lesson.