Teenagers, take note. This group of teens’ generous and selfless act at a veteran’s funeral that no one attended is truly inspiring.
Honoring our veterans is important to show that their sacrifices and heroic efforts for their country were valuable. But when this veteran’s funeral wasn’t attended by anyone, a group of students decided to step in and help.
70-year-old Jerry Wayne Pino, who served in the Vietnam war, died on December 12, 2016, but sadly, there were no family or close friends in attendance to pay tribute to his efforts and honor his legacy. He died alone after living an isolated life.
Even his obituary was brief, as few knew much about his story. He did reportedly arrange his funeral prior to his death and paid for it in advance, but there were no pallbearers to carry his casket to the burial site.
With no surviving family or friends to do this task, a military veteran at the Riemann Family Funeral Home got in contact with someone to see if they could arrange for six people to be pallbearers at the funeral. Six teens from the Long Beach, Mississippi community, none of whom knew Pino, volunteered to help out: high school students Bailey Griffin, Joseph Ebberman, JT Tripp, Jake Strong, Kenny McNutt, and James Kneiss.
The American flag was folded by honor guards from the Navy and laid on the casket. Following the service, the funeral home director gave the flag to the teenagers for their kind deed. The boys decided to display the burial flag in their football locker room.
One of the boys’ moms took to Facebook to share her son’s story, writing: “Proud mom when [JT] told me that no one should be buried without people who care present, especially a veteran. Exposure to patriotism and respect comes from the home, schools and community. Proud of all these boys!”
According to a report from Today.com, the University of Detroit Jesuit High School has a pallbearer ministry program in place that allows students to volunteer as pallbearers for unclaimed veterans and non-veterans in their community.
Tom Lennon, a senior at the school, explained, “This was an opportunity to give something to somebody who finished their life on the fringe of society. These veterans were men I have 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.”
Faculty member Todd Wilson further explained the program, noting: “The students’ service is so important because they realize how they can give back to the people of our community who have given so much to us,” adding, “They believe that, through being a pallbearer at the funerals of veterans, the homeless, the socially poor and others, they are…offering a final tribute to a person’s life journey.”
Wilson’s pride in his students shines through. “To watch them develop this program and to give so generously of their time and talent is impressive,” said Wilson. “I have seen our students reach out of themselves and truly give selflessly to others. The students have come to understand that it is not our place to judge someone and their circumstances in life, but rather to celebrate and respect the dignity of that person’s life.”