WWII vet helped bury 3,000 military service members

WWII vet helped bury 3,000 military service members

Credit: Matt Standal / KTVB

Ken Smith


by Matt Standal


Posted on April 9, 2014 at 4:43 PM

BOISE -- Sandy McCary's father lovingly kept records of more than 3,000 veterans he helped lay to rest at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery.

Kenny Smith wrote down the dates, names, and described the burial services in his daily log book that began in 2004 and stopped on April 4, 2014.

Smith would die three days later. That fact makes him the longest-serving volunteer in the history of the Idaho State Veteran's Cemetery.

The 86-year-old World War II veteran filled his home with photographs, awards, and reminders of military members he helped lay to rest over the past 10 years.

That includes official recognition by Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch Otter" and Senator Mike Crapo for more than 6,150 hours of his own time served.

You see, Smith made the drive from Boise to Eagle almost every day, helping to bury and honor thousands of veterans he'd never met before.

"He was very particular," McCary said of her father. "He was very much a loyal patriot, a loyal person, loved the flag, loved the symbols of the flag."

But that's just part of the story.

Smith also lost both of his legs to frostbite in a workplace accident after the war. The disability slowed him down, but never got in the way of his volunteer service.

To better get around, he purchased an all-terrain vehicle for use at the cemetery.

According to cemetery director James Earp, Smith would use the ATV to greet military family members, accompany them to the final resting place of their loved ones, and then muster his way out of the ATV on prosthetic legs to salute the American flag.

"Kenny has been out here for approximately 3,000 internments," Earp told 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."

That's because the cemetery holds one very important urn that Smith visited each day.

Each day Smith volunteered, he first drove his Gator to the resting place of his wife Doris, who passed away just as the Idaho State Veteran's Cemetery was being built.

McCary says her mother suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and needed Smith's daily care up until she died in 2003.

"He felt like could speak with her there," McCary said. "[He'd] Communicate back and forth, and try not to miss her so much that way."

It's the same place where Kenny Smith will be laid to rest on Monday, and where volunteers will greet his family and salute the flag, just as he did for thousands of veterans who went before him.

Smith's funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday at Aldon Wagoner Funeral Home in Boise.