Kilmer was one of America’s most promising young poets. Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he showed a passion for writing while attending Rutgers College and Columbia University. At the age of twenty-six he produced his most famous poem, "Trees." This became one of the most quoted verse among schoolchildren in the first half of the twentieth century.
I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Knowing of Kilmer’s life, most Evangelicals believe he was definitely born again, though he and his wife became Catholics. When America went to war in 1917, Kilmer believed he had to sign up. He was assigned to the famous and distinguished Fighting Sixty-Ninth Division.
While in France he penned his last literary work, a poem entitled "Prayer of a Soldier in France." Volunteering to scout behind enemy lines to find a German machine-gun nest, Kilmer was killed instantly by a single sniper’s bullet. In his last letter home he wrote:
"Pray that I may love God more. To love Him more passionately, more constantly, without distractions."
Kilmer died at the age of thirty-one. After the war, the training facility in New Jersey where he trained, was named "Camp Kilmer."