The fate of many of America’s veterans is a heartbreaking one, unable to reassimilate with the lives they had before they joined the U.S. Military service many end up homeless and out of touch with family members. Often they are unable to get jobs and end up in the same situation, forgotten on the streets and left to die alone. However, three homeless veterans who passed away and were laid to rest last week they were given one final dignity – a funeral service that treated them with respect. Strangely enough, it was several High School Students who carried out the final act of kindness to the veterans.
Studies show that despite housing efforts established by the United States government and other organizations, approximately 50,000 military veterans are currently homeless across the country. These once revered members of the society face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle when it comes to homelessness, many also die in nursing homes and shelters.
The three funerals were the beginning of a larger program the school’s student service team have brought to life. Faculty member Todd Wilson is in charge of the program and states that more than 50 students were participants in the first training, and there have been additional students signing up for the next training session which is set to begin in November. The students are stepping up to ensure that homeless veterans won’t be buried alone. ABC 13 reported that 1 of the 6 students who were pallbearers for last months burials, Joshua Gonzalez stated that he is honored to be a part of the program.
“I was glad and truly honored to have experienced and served those veterans who sacrificed their lives for our country. Being their pallbearer was just a little something that I could do to repay them for what they did for all of us.”
The bodies of the three veterans were not claimed after their deaths were announced. The High School students from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy in Detroit, Michigan, who participated all traveled together in a bus to the service. Five seniors and a junior from the school volunteered to serve as the pallbearers at the funerals for the veterans and afterwards they all prayed together. They said they believed it was their strong belief that “everyone deserved the dignity of having people present at their last moments.”
The students of University of Detroit Jesuit came up with the idea themselves in an effort to give back to the community. They actually traveled to Cleveland to learn from a similar program they have there. According to Today News, the funeral home responsible for the burial of the three veterans A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home in Troy Michigan, is in partnership with another local funeral home as well as the count medical examiner’s office to ensure that proper burials are arranged for all abandoned veterans. The Great Lakes National Cemetery will be the final resting place of the vets. Caskets for the veterans are provided by the Dignity Memorial Network‘s Homeless Veterans Program.
The veterans that receive the service are only turned over to the funeral homes after the county has tried unsuccessfully to locate any loved ones to claim the bodies for 90 days. Terry Desmond, the director of the funeral home, says the work the students do is of utmost importance as there would be no one to bear the bodies of the deceased veterans otherwise.
“The students’ service is quite simply valuable to our firm because that is what we do – we serve our community by caring for and honoring the dead, regardless of financial circumstances. The pallbearer program at U of D Jesuit says a lot about the school and the young men who attend there. Their service to the less fortunate honors the dignity of individuals who are mostly out-of-the-view of our society.”
KSL wrote that Todd Wilson also had nothing but praise for the students in the program and their impressive devotion to honoring deceased veterans.
“The students have come to understand that it is not our place to judge someone and their circumstances in life, but rather to celebrate and respect the dignity of that person’s life.”
[Photo Courtesy Of University of Detroit Jesuit School]