World War II Veteran Kenny Smith believed in honoring his fellow vets — whether he knew them or not. In fact, his extraordinary commitment led him to assist with more than 3,000 funerals at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Eagle, Idaho between 2004 and 2014. Not only that, but he also wrote down the names of each veteran whose funeral he attended in a log book and kept photographs and other mementos of these vets.
At the age of 86, Smith died just three days after the last funeral he attended on April 4.
Smith, who was the head volunteer at the cemetery, lost both of his legs to frostbite after serving in the Pacific with the Navy during World War II. He bought an all-terrain-vehicle to help him get around the cemetery. He would greet families in his ATV, and then rise on his prosthetic legs to salute the flag during the funeral services. Cemetery director James Earp told Matt Standal of KTVB, “Kenny was here watching the construction of the cemetery unfold, and it was a point of pride for him to understand it. He felt very much a part of this, and we all agree that Kenny is a big part of this cemetery.”
Before each funeral he volunteered at, Smith also took time to visit the resting place of his wife, who died in 2003. His daughter Sandy McCary told Standal, “He felt like could speak with her there. [He’d] communicate back and forth, and try not to miss her so much that way.”
Before Smith died, Idaho’s governor C.L. “Butch” Otter had honored him for more than 6,500 hours of volunteer service at the cemetery. Smith will be laid to rest with a military flag line on April 21. Let’s hold a moment of silence for this honorable American.