Kenneth Spilman saw the devastating effects of war up close in Germany, where his job as an Army motorcycle police officer involved finding mass graves and giving proper burials to victims of the Nazis in World War II.
Perhaps that's why Kenneth, an Army veteran and youngest of six brothers who served in the war, felt at home among the graves at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, spending hours affixing wreaths to headstones and reflecting on the human toll of war, his wife told ABC News.
Kenneth died on July 6, aged 93, and Marie-Louise Spilman said her husband's dying wish was to be buried at Arlington.
“He just filled with pride. He just was very proud,” Marie-Louise told ABC News. “He was proud of all those young men in his war or in any of the wars who were buried there. He felt comfort and he felt he needed to honor them.”
Kenneth was born in 1922 in Edwardsville, Illinois, and played baseball, football and hockey as a student at New Hampton Prep School and Nichols College, according to his obituary. He lived the American dream until the war began, getting his first car at 16 — "a beauty" he called it — and playing drums in big band jazz groups when he wasn't cheering for the Red Sox, his obituary on Dignity Memorial says.
That changed when the U.S. entered World War II, and Kenneth and his five brothers were drafted for military service. His mother "was a Gold Star Mother many times over, [and] she hung the six banners proudly in her home's window and wore the six gold stars on her dresses," according to Kenneth's Dignity Memorial obituary. All six Spilman brothers survived the war.
In 2000, the Spilmans moved to Reston, Virginia, about 20 miles west of Arlington National Cemetery. Marie-Louise said her husband frequently visited the cemetery through his late 80s, spending pensive hours among the graves. She told ABC News that Kenneth's "special place" was the southeast corner of the cemetery, Section 60, which is reserved for service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He would walk among the rows and he would look and he would reflect on those who most recently had lost their lives,” said his daughter Stacy Spilman Pontius. “And he would reflect on the parents who had lost a child.”
On Nov. 11, Kenneth was buried at Arlington during a Veterans Day ceremony, his family said.
“Deep down, that’s all he wanted, truly, it was to be buried there,” Marie-Louise said.