By Mark Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008
The military was in Kevin Grieco's blood; his father and grandfather had served. So when he decided to join up and become a third-generation soldier, it wasn't surprising, his wife said.
Yesterday, Grieco was reunited with his grandfather as he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The staff sergeant, 35, was killed Oct. 27 in Baghlan, Afghanistan, alongside Sgt. Nicholas A. Casey, 22, of Canton, Ohio, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives as they were preparing to enter a building, according to the Department of Defense.
"He wanted to do more," his wife, Rashmi, said in a phone interview yesterday. "He wanted to be a major general. He wanted to be an officer. He wanted a career in the military. He kept saying to me, 'Even if I have to die for my country, I will.' That's how he always looked at it."
More than 100 mourners gathered at Arlington to honor Grieco, emerging from a procession of cars and walking across the soggy grass of Section 60 of the cemetery. The day's persistent rain abated minutes before the mourners arrived, but the sky remained gray and forbidding.
Grieco was born in Frankfurt, Germany, the "Army brat" son of a now-retired colonel, his wife said. He was an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster who loved the outdoors, she said. He spent 13 years in the Navy before enlisting in the Illinois Army National Guard in December 2006.
His wife said she wanted him to stay in the Navy because she thought it was safer than the Army. "But he just said, no, he wants to do more and more for his country," she said. She said he told her, 'Don't count on me retiring or anything, because I'm not going to retire.' "
The two met while line-dancing in Chicago in 2003. Grieco loved country music, and the India-born Rashmi aroused his interest.
"He was surprised to find an Indian girl line-dancing, so he was kind of curious," she said. "As soon as I saw him, I said, 'I'm going to dance with this guy.' "
So she asked him to dance. The two were married in April 2004 and lived in Bartlett, Ill., just outside Chicago, with their children, Joshua, 4, and Angeli, 2.
Rashmi Grieco said that she is proud of her husband but that when she thinks of him "as a husband, as a father, it hurts my heart" not to have him around.
"My son keeps calling him over the phone and says: 'Dad, I'm ready to go to the swimming pool. Where are you?' " she said. "And I couldn't take it anymore. I said to Joshua: 'Daddy's with God now. He's not coming.' And Joshua said, 'Can he at least say I love you?' And I couldn't hold it anymore. It broke my heart."
Grieco, who shipped out to Afghanistan this summer, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery, based at Sycamore, Ill. He is the 80th service member killed in Afghanistan to be buried at Arlington.
He wanted to be buried at the cemetery like his grandfather, John Grieco, who rests on the west side of Section 60.
"We were just here recently for his grandpa, and I couldn't even imagine that I'd have to come back for my husband," she said. "I feel like I'm walking in a nightmare right now."
During the service, folded flags were presented to Grieco's wife and parents, Linda and retired Col. Ralph Grieco. Afterward, family members lingered by the wooden coffin for more intimate goodbyes.
After they finished and moved back toward their cars, almost on cue, a light drizzle began to fall again.