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U of D Jesuit High School students serve as pallbearers at funerals for homeless veterans


Too many veterans die alone without family or friends to mourn their passing. Sometimes it happens because of age, but too often it happens because they are homeless.

Junior and senior students at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy decided no veteran should be buried without recognition for his or her military service to our country. To make sure these men and women receive the honor and dignity they deserve at death these students are acting as pallbearers for those who might otherwise have no one at their graveside or funeral.

“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-year student Leonard Froehlich. “There is no better way to pay our respects than by being pallbearers. We honor these service members by being with them in their last moments on earth, and that in itself is a privilege.”


Their respect and service goes much farther. Before each funeral, the student pallbearers pray for the deceased. They travel by student carpool, take part in funeral procession, carry the casket to the grave and share in the prayers of committal. After returning to school, students reflect prayerfully on their experience.

The program began on October 20 when six senior-year students served as pallbearers for the funerals of three unclaimed veterans at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly. A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Directors conducted the three veterans’ funerals.

“The pallbearer program at U of D Jesuit says a lot about the school and the young men who attend there,” said Terry Desmond, president, A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Homes. “Their service to the less fortunate honors the dignity of individuals who are mostly out-of-the-view of our society.”

The need is great. A report released in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found there were about 50,000 homeless veterans in America. To put it another way, right now, the number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans is greater than the number of service persons who died during that war, according to Volunteers of America. Already, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are appearing among the homeless population.

Before they began their program the U of D Jesuit students went to St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, which runs a similar program, to gather information and to train. They also received additional training from Desmond Funeral Directors.

“Community service by our students is part of our school’s DNA and a hallmark of a Jesuit education,” said school President Karl J. Kiser, S.J. “Preserving the dignity of the human soul is important to all human beings, regardless of a person’s situation at death.”

The idea for a student-led pallbearer program started with informal student discussions about ways the student service team could better help the community, especially the marginalized and those persons forgotten by our society.

Other U of D Jesuit community service outreach programs include the annual entire 900 student-body service project in Detroit called “Pledge Detroit!” The goal is to beautify city landmarks and help in community centers.

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17 comments on “U of D Jesuit High School students serve as pallbearers at funerals for homeless veterans

  1. I am a Marine and a veteran. I just want to say thank you to the students that honor our brothers and sisters. Too often our veterans are swept aside and forgotten. Keep up the outstanding job. God bless you all.

  2. These young men are a credit to themselves, their parents, their school, and their faith. May God bless these fine young men for all of their acts of kindness and faith

  3. I am so moved by this article… The dedication of these young men, leads me to one more reason I'm glad I'm Catholic…

  4. This is why I am a proud parent of two university of Detroit Jesuit academy and high school. When ever I meet a young student or his parents, I always mention U of D JA & HS, and encourage them visit the school and apply to go there.

  5. Maybe another positive act of kindness and respect could include doing something with them while they still have the capacity to share more than their dead weight. Most of our veterans were very lovable young people just like us with a rich future ahead of them when war and tragedy broke them and left them wandering, wondering what happened to faith and hope and love.

  6. Remarkable young men whose parents can be so very proud of their commitment and dedication to the respect of our deceased veterans who have given so much for our country. May God bless these young men in their journey toward their own future.


  8. What a wonderful idea! My husband is a veteran, and not homeless, but we both know of this plight of homeless veterans. A community service, high schools should have this as a credit. Some of these young men could possibly go into funeral service. Things like this would be wonderful, even for poor, homeless, or whoever needs a pallbearer service. Might even be something for a good entrepreneur to start. Poor and homeless vets should be gratis, but they could accept donations. Even schools with girls could start something, like how to set up an after funeral reception.

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  10. Surprising young fellows whose guardians can be so extremely glad for their dedication and commitment to the appreciation of our perished veterans who have given such a great amount for our nation. May God favor these young fellows in their excursion toward their own particular future. Thanks! Funerals

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