It is a tragic truth that as they grow old, so many veterans are forgotten, left alone after valiantly serving their country and often sacrificing a multitude of things. John T. Fitzmaurice, a U.S. army veteran, was homeless when he died at the age of 68. He didn’t have a lot of friends or family, and nobody left to mourn his death. In fact, nobody even claimed his body. As a result, few people were expected to attend his funeral.
That was until a group of high school students found out about it …
Upon hearing about the situation in which a U.S. veteran would be laid to rest, teenagers from Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, decided they had to intervene.
Not only did they take it upon themselves to go to Fitzmaurice’s funeral, but they escorted his casket as well.
Fitzmaurice was laid to rest at Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Winchendon, but not before being given a full Mass in a nearby chapel. The boys from Catholic Memorial High School stood in for the vet’s family, performing their duties proudly.
A school official told local news: “They were moved by the honor of standing in for this man who had no family. It was a lesson in honoring every person’s humanity.”
And he was certainly honored. A group of juniors and seniors served as his pallbearers, but there were a number of others in attendance to pay their respects. In total, Miller believes around 40 people gathered at the church to bid Fitzmaurice farewell.
Miller stated: “The response from our community was so positive and our boys had such a wonderful experience. Our students are charged with the marginalized and those who cannot speak. I think a lot of them had never been to a funeral at all.
“This is their first experience of being this close to a casket, and feeling the weight of this person, and realizing he was a human being like the rest of us and he deserved companionship.”
Not only was the act an extremely compassionate thing to do with regards to the students, but hopefully it also permitted them to mature in a very unique way. Respect for our vets, and indeed for all life on earth, is of paramount importance within society, and it’s so great to see these students honoring a man who had no one else.
As a result, they’ve rightly been praised by virtually all who have read their story, and can be considered role models for other youngsters around the world.