When a homeless veteran with no known family passed away, a group of high school students decided to serve as his family and give him a proper funeral.
Students at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts only knew the man only as John, a homeless man from the neighborhood who died in the street. With no family or friends they knew to contact, the students took it upon themselves to give him a funeral so he would be buried with full military honors.
“We have a lot of veterans in my own 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,” said Will Padden, the senior class president at Catholic Memorial High School.
The students used the school’s chapel to host the funeral. Several students served as pallbearers, bringing John’s coffin, which was covered with the American flag, to the hearse. Meanwhile, the rest of the student body sat in attendance in place of John’s family.
“Paying homage to a veteran, to bring him to our campus, to provide the burial right he deserves, honor his legacy, and to help our boys realize that we have to stand with those that are marginalized, those that are poor, those that many in our community casts out,” said Catholic Memorial President Peter Folan. “They have to recognize that we have a commitment to those who are struggling.”
In the end, it was a relatively small gesture. But the students that put on the funeral for John certainly taught themselves and others a valuable lesson.
“Parts of our character is to make sure that you’re there for someone when they need a shoulder to cry on, that you’re there for someone when they need a friend to open up to,” said Padden. “John, in this case, needed a family. And we were there to be John’s family.”