WEST ROXBURY (CBS) – It was a final sendoff for a hero from young people who never knew him. The homeless veteran who died on the streets, known only as John, had no living family members or friends.
When students at Catholic Memorial High School learned that John, an Army veteran, would be buried with no one in attendance, they decided to do something.
“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 senior class president Will Padden.
On Wednesday, John was buried with full military honors. But before an Army hearse took his flag-covered casket away, there was a full mass in Catholic Memorial’s chapel. The Rev. Chris Palladino volunteered his services and the eulogy.
For these young men it was a learning experience for the heart.
“For us paying homage to a veteran, to bring him to our campus, to provide the burial rights he deserves, and to honor his legacy and to help our boys realize we have to stand with those who are marginalized,” said the school’s president, Peter Folan.
In the beginning the boys knew very little about John, just that he was a veteran and died on the streets. Now perhaps they have learned something about themselves by getting to know John.
“John in this case needed a family and we were there to be John’s family,” said Padden.
After the mass, John’s flag-draped coffin was brought to the waiting hearse by a contingent of seniors.
Then, there was the playing of taps.
In life, John didn’t have any family. But in death he has discovered a huge family at Catholic Memorial.