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Detroit High School Students Serve As Pallbearers To Honor Homeless Veterans03:51
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University of Detroit Jesuit High School students serve as pallbearers at the funeral of a homeless veteran. From left to right: Leonard Froehlich, 17; Nick Benedetto, 17; Noah Tylutki, 16; Michael O’Connor, 17; Joshua Gonzalez, 17; Thomas Lennon, 17. (University of Detroit Jesuit High School)
University of Detroit Jesuit High School students serve as pallbearers at the funeral of a homeless veteran. From left to right: Leonard Froehlich, 17; Nick Benedetto, 17; Noah Tylutki, 16; Michael O’Connor, 17; Joshua Gonzalez, 17; Thomas Lennon, 17. (University of Detroit Jesuit High School)

Students at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School do all the regular high school stuff — debate club, drama, model U.N., sports of all kind. But this fall, a group of students can also be seen doing something not-so-regular.

They're acting as pallbearers for homeless veterans. The students have started something called the Pallbearer Ministry, as part of the community service aspect of their education. The program is a popular one, with more than 50 students showing up for the first training session.

So far, the students have served at three funerals and say that their goal is to bring dignity to the deceased, showing the respect and appreciation that would otherwise be absent from the funeral of a homeless veteran.

Joshua Gonzalez, a senior at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, and Todd Wilson, director of service at the high school, join Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd.

Interview Highlights

On acting as a pallbearer for homeless veterans

JG: "We, as a group, before we headed out, we learned the obituary for each veteran we were serving. Personally, we didn't know who they were, as people, as veterans, but we only knew their names and what branches of the U.S. forces they worked for."

On what he learned by doing this

JG: "The first three funeral services we did for the homeless veterans meant so much to me. Overall, it gave me a perspective on another way to live life, to see how pure and special a person's life is. And as a new ministry, we hope to preserve and dignify the honor and respect that all human beings deserve to have throughout their lives."

On why the students chose this avenue of service

TW: "We thought of this program a couple of years ago. There's another Jesuit high school in Ohio that has been participating in this type of ministry for 10 to 15 years now. This idea came about around the same time in Detroit. There were stories about a large number of unclaimed bodies in the Wayne County Morgue and so we started thinking how can we help in this situation and it also fits perfectly with our mission at the school ... and our intense service program here."

TW: "This was certainly a way to give back to those who gave so much for us. I think the students realize and respect that all people have dignity in their life regardless of their choices throughout life, that everybody deserves a dignified burial and it's really a final tribute to someone's life journey."

Guests

This segment aired on November 3, 2015.

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