Sadly, many homeless veterans are without family or friends who will care for their funeral services when they pass away. In Detroit, Michigan, the county medical examiner's office waits 90 days for family members to step forward and claim their deceased loved one. When no one does, the Dignity Memorial Network's Homeless Veterans Program steps in to help with the burial process.
When Todd Wilson, a service team adviser and faculty member at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, heard about the concerning situation, he knew he would be able to help. The all-boys Catholic school with 900 students in grades seventh through 12th is always looking for ways to give back to the community. He thought his compassionate students could step up and fill the void.
When his idea was presented to the students, 50 boys attended the first training session. This was a surprise to Todd as he anticipated maybe 20 students to show up for the first meeting. He was thrilled with the students' willingness to help.
Today, there are more than 49,000 homeless veterans in the United States. Yet, the students from University of Detroit Jesuit High School are helping make sure that the homeless veterans in the Greater Detroit area are not buried alone.
The first group of six juniors and seniors served as pallbearers for three Army, Navy, and Marine veterans' funerals. Those students who served as pallbearers said it was a somber moment, but they knew they were doing the right thing. They were supporting their community, veterans and fulfilling a responsibility to "our human family."
The students were joined by dozens of patriot motorcycle riders at the service who also came to show respect for people they never knew, but people who were just as equally important. They were there to support people who fought for all Americans' freedom.
The volunteer pallbearer program, launched in the spirit of St. Joseph of Arimathea — the patron saint of funeral directors and pallbearers — is to be a "beautiful act of generosity and solidarity," school officials note on their website. "It serves as a significant reminder that all people are children of God."
To date, the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial program has provided burial services for more than 1,600 homeless veterans since the program's inception in 2000. This idea gives the students an incredible opportunity to be inspired by those who served for our country, and the homeless veterans will forever be remembered.