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Teens Serve as PallBearers and Give Homeless Veterans Proper Burials

Posted: November 22, 2017 at 11:00 am   /   by

As Thanksgiving approaches, so many people get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday and forget to be thankful. Some, on the other hand, remember to give thanks for family, friends, provisions and health. Yet, there is another group compromised:  high school students. These teens feel an overwhelming gratitude for veterans, especially the homeless veterans. Therefore, they agree to help provide a proper burial for these homeless veterans and serve as pallbearers at their funerals.

A group of students from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School began a pallbearer’s ministry. They noticed that there were homeless military members who, when passed away, would be buried alone. According to Tom Lennon, 17, “These veterans were men I have never met, but they helped make the country I live in safer and stronger.” Likewise, Nick Benedetto said. “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.’” And that they did; these young men, along with the help of teachers, came together to thank these homeless veterans in such a monumental way. The students agreed that these men fought with honor, and they would not let them be buried in an other way. They helped ensure these veterans were laid to rest with the same honor in which they lived.

The pallbearer’s ministry began in Detroit in 2015, and since has spread to various places in our country. On December 12, 2016, Navy veteran Jerry Wayne died in Long Beach, Mississippi at the age of 70. Jerry’s body lay in a funeral home for several weeks, but no one claimed him; he had no friends or family. Funeral home worker Cathy Warden stated, “Something had to be done with respect; we had to give him what he deserved. Nobody should go alone.” She asked her son and some of his friends if they would server as pallbearers for Mr. Wayne, and they gladly obliged. “It was the right thing to do; he served our country. He fought for our rights. For him to be buried with nobody there was just sad. I told myself I was going to do it and I did it,” 17-year-old Bailey Griffin stated. When Mr. Wayne was buried, the sun shone bright, and an honor guard stood at attention to give respect to this veteran.

And just recently, “Students at Catholic Memorial High School honored John T. Fitzmaurice in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, after he passed away on the streets of Boston” (DailyMail.com). This homeless veteran died at the age of 68 with no friends or family. Thanks to these high school students, “Fitzmaurice was buried Wednesday with full military honors,” according to CBS Boston. “One of the students, Will Padden, revealed he was humbled to honor John, especially so close to Veterans Day” (DailyMail.com). Padden continued to say, “‘We have a lot of veterans in our family, so I know the sacrifice he made for the country and I know the service he committed in the years he committed to serving our country.” Such wise words coming from someone so young.

It is a shame when teenagers must take a stand to ensure that veterans who “fought for our rights,” who “made sacrifices for this country,” and “who made this country safer and stronger” are buried with respect because our government has failed to ensure the same. Thankfulness is an emotion, and it is a necessary emotion. However, let’s follow the example these young men of integrity have displayed. Let’s not stop the emotion with just an emotion. Sometimes an emotion of thankfulness is so overwhelming we need to put actions to it. Bring their example of putting actions to your thankfulness into all areas of your life…but especially with veterans. Don’t wait until a funeral is needed or the Thanksgiving holiday. Take time, everyday, to thank a veteran.

Cynthia Gilder

Cynthia Gilder

Team Writer at Western Free Press
Cynthia Cutrone Gilder lives in Morgan City, Louisiana, with her husband and three children.She has taught English for the past twenty years on both the high school and the junior high level.Her love for writing has enabled her to self-publish five children's books and edit several other publications.
Cynthia Gilder

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Teens Serve as PallBearers and Give Homeless Veterans Proper Burials