High school students volunteer as pallbearers for veterans who die without any family or friends

When a veteran without any family or friends dies, it’s not uncommon to see the local veterans’ organization or funeral parlor call upon the community to help lay the deceased to rest.

Since 2017, a high school school in Boston has been hosting such funerals for veterans.

“There’s something powerful about seeing a coffin in your school,” Dr. Peter Folan, president of Catholic Memorial college preparatory school, told TODAY.

“The American flag right there, and when you see those two current servicemen fold the flag, play taps and then hand that flag to the history teacher who was a Marine — that’s a full circle moment for a kid. We don’t necessarily understand the power of that symbolism. We need that more now than ever.”

Catholic Memorial has been hosting military funerals for veterans without family or friends since 2017.

The service typically takes place in the school’s chapel, but there have been several times the school has utilized its gym to hold all 600 students.

Students at the all-boys school volunteer for any one of a number of roles. Some serve as pallbearers while others read a passage from the scripture.

Richard Mazyck manages the Pallbearer Ministry at the University of Detroit Jesuit School in Michigan. He told TODAY the school has been hosting funerals for veterans since October 2015.

“This was an opportunity to give something to somebody who finished their life on the fringe of society,” Tom Lennon, a former student, told TODAY in 2015. “These veterans were men I had never met, but they helped make the country I live in safer and stronger. No matter who they were or what they did on earth, every person deserves a proper burial.”

Folan said he’s seen a change of heart in the students who participate in Catholic Memorial’s program.

“When we as a school come together to talk about and bury someone who has died without family and friends, that leads to work informing, forming and then ultimately transforming those students through that experience,” Folan says. “That’s really why we’re doing it, is to make those intricate linkages between the head and the heart.”

This is such a beautiful program. I wish more schools would offer something similar.


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