Detroit high school students carry caskets of the homeless

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘A final tribute': Teens serve as pallbearers for homeless military veterans.

Some who attend the all-boys Catholic prep school are taking that tenet to heart and putting it into action by taking on a volunteer experience that has them serving as pallbearers at the funerals of homeless men and women. “This was an opportunity to give something to somebody who finished their life on the fringe of society,” said Tom Lennon, 17, a senior at the University of Detroit Jesuit School. “These veterans were men I have never met, but they helped make the country I live in safer and stronger.Four homeless Knox County veterans received the recognition they earned in life Tuesday when they were buried with full military honors, courtesy of the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program.

The fate of many of America’s veterans is a heartbreaking one, unable to reassimilate with the lives they had before they joined the US Military service many end up homeless and out of touch with family members. No matter who they were or what they did on earth, every person deserves a proper burial.” The funerals earlier this month were the first in a new initiative of the school’s student service team, led by faculty member Todd Wilson. The students named their effort after Joseph of Arimathea, the wealthy biblical figure many Christians see as the most important pallbearer in history, having cared for Jesus Christ’s body after his crucifixion. However, 3 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. The Knoxville chapter of the national program provided a full military burial, including the presentation of the flags, 21 gun salute, taps, and a place in the Tennessee Veterans Cemetery.

Six students recently kicked off the Arimathean pallbearer ministry by carrying the caskets of three homeless military veterans during services at Great Lakes National Cemetery, an hour’s drive north of Detroit. Flags were folded and doves released for the four men, who had no family available or willing to claim their bodies. “May we not bury these four fine men in vain,” said Rick Phipps, who works with the Dignity program. “May the bitter loneliness that engulfed them in their last breaths be forever etched in our memories.” Airman 2nd Class William Comer Fite, 82, served in the Air Force as an administrative clerk from 1954-59. Senior Lenny Froehlich was among the students wearing white gloves and matching school ties who toted the flag-draped caskets at the Veterans Affairs cemetery in Holly Township. 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. Three weeks earlier, Froehlich and the other two students heading up the ministry led a training session in the school’s chapel, outlining the program for students and faculty members.

Although none of us knew them, I felt honored to be a part of the service,” said Leonard Froehlich, a high school senior. “Above all, we gave these men a truly dignified funeral.” “To watch them develop this program and to give so generously of their time and talent is impressive,” said Wilson. “I have seen our students reach out of themselves and truly give selflessly to others. A couple chose to accept help from the programs available for homeless veterans and the others didn’t. “They hurt, they cry, they bleed just like the rest of us—they’ve just lost their way. What we try to do is show love and compassion and get them the help they need and deserve,” Spence said. “Just knowing we had a small part in making sure these veterans are going to be remembered. Desmond & Sons Funeral Directors conducted the three veterans’ funerals. “The men we honored today put their lives on the line for our country and now they deserve our dignity and service in return,” said senior Leonard Froehlich, according to the release. “There is no better way to pay our respects than by being pallbearers. Phipps estimates more than 60,000 homeless veterans live in the U.S. — often addicted to drugs or alcohol, unaware of programs that could aid them and with no tools to re-enter society.

After returning to school, students reflect prayerfully on their experience. “Preserving the dignity of the human soul is important to all human beings, regardless of a person’s situation at death,” school president Karl J. 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.

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