Soldier's mother to testify

NORTH FAIRFIELD Kathe Wilhelm will go to Afghanistan next month. Of this she sounds c
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010

NORTH FAIRFIELD

Kathe Wilhelm will go to Afghanistan next month.

Of this she sounds confident.

Wilhelm, 40, of North Fairfield, said she expects to testify in the case against four Multi-National Division South soldiers charged with abusing and degrading her son and others.

"I know my son's state of being from when he left to when he got there to the three times he called me in the 10 days he was there," Wilhelm said. "By the way it looks, I am supposed to be a witness."

Wilhelm's 19-year-old son, Keiffer Wilhelm, killed himself with a gunshot to the head Aug. 4 in Iraq.

An investigation into the incident led to criminal charges against four of Wilhelm's superiors who allegedly taunted him and others.

The superiors also allegedly made him exercise excessively to the point of serious physical pain, according to the public affairs office of Multi-National Division South.

Things were going so well in Keiffer's life.

He had a new girlfriend.

He was saving money to buy a fast car when he finished his tour of duty.

He was looking fit after losing lots of weight.

"He was excited and couldn't wait to get (to Iraq)," Wilhelm said.

But something changed when he deployed and arrived in the Maysan province.

The soldier's phone calls to his mother lost the cheerful tone of previous conversations.

"He was completely being picked on," Wilhelm said. "Every call got a little worse."

Wilhelm said her son's things were being stolen and his superiors were punishing him with excessive physical activities.

Wilhelm remembers talking to her son over the first weekend in August -- only 24 hours or so before he killed himself with a gunshot to the head.

Keiffer sounded defeated and unhappy.

"His last call was the worst call ever," Wilhelm said. "It's like, 'Mom, I hate it here.' ... The next day, they came knocking on the door saying he's gone."

Following his death, Keiffer's body was flown stateside and cremated.

All that remains of the young man are ashes Wilhelm keeps in an urn that sits among the shelves of a memorial cabinet in her home.

Despite recent media coverage suggesting otherwise, the Army paid for Keiffer's funeral services and arrangements, the 21-gun salute, military honors and cremation, Wilhelm said.

"He got everything the Army was supposed to give him," Wilhelm said. "I don't want people being suckered into thinking Keiffer didn't get what the Army was supposed to give."

Wilhelm said she is unsure exactly how she will manage to get to the hearing in Afghanistan.

She doesn't have a passport or flight plans yet. Still, she remains resolved to face the men who allegedly pushed her son so hard he believed a bullet was the only solution.

Keiffer's father and Wilhelm's ex-husband, Adrian Wilhelm, has asked the public for money to pay for him, his wife and his father to attend the hearing.

But Wilhelm said she is opposed to relying on others to get her there.

"I am definitely going, one way or another, but that's not anyone else's job to pay for me," Wilhelm said.