Members of the 372nd Engineer Brigade based at Fort Snelling prepare to carry the body of Army Reserve Sgt. Kurt Kruize to a waiting hearse at St. Cloud Regional Airport, Saturday, April 10, 2010. Kruize was killed April 4 in a military accident in Baghdad. (Photo credit: Kimm Anderson / St. Cloud Times)
By TaLeiza Calloway
St. Cloud Times
April 11, 2010
Friends and family cradled Billie Jo Kruize as the charter plane carrying her husband’s body landed at St. Cloud Regional Airport.
Army Reserve Sgt. Kurt Kruize arrived home for the last time at 9:07 a.m. Saturday [April 10, 2009].
As the plane taxied closer, Billie Jo Kruize broke down, needing the support of a chair. Her sobbing was broken only as she tearfully approached the flag-draped casket and said the only words she could muster: “I love you, honey.”
It was an emotional homecoming for the loved ones of the 35-year-old Hancock native who died April 4 in a military accident in Baghdad. …
The arrival of Kruize’s body Saturday was punctuated by 30 U.S. flags blowing in the hands of members of the Minnesota Patriot Guard. Members of the 372nd Engineer Brigade, based in Fort Snelling, placed Kruize’s casket in a silver hearse. The casket was taken to Williams Dingmann Funeral Home where visitation is set for 4-9 p.m. today.
Kruize was a career military man, having joined the Army Reserve during his junior year in high school. He served his first tour in Iraq for 11 months in 2003. He left for his second tour Jan. 17 with the St. Cloud-based 367th Engineer Battalion. The unit has been overseas since March.
The father of four, ages 13, 10, 5 and 2, was killed last week when he was crushed between a vehicle and a trailer in Baghdad. …
Kruize’s death is the first of a St. Cloud soldier in connection with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the second [third] for Central Minnesota. Freeport native Staff Sgt. Brian Hellermann died Aug. 6, 2003, in Baghdad [and Cpl. Anthony McElveen of Little Falls was killed in Iraq in 2005]. …
Funeral arrangements for Sgt. Kurt Kruize
Sunday, April 11: Visitation from 4–9 p.m. at Williams Dingmann Funeral Home, 1900 Veterans Drive, St. Cloud.
Monday, April 12: Visitation at St. Mary’s Cathedral after 9:30 a.m. Service scheduled for 10:30 a.m. A burial ceremony will follow in the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery adjacent to Camp Ripley.
By Mark Sommerhauser
St. Cloud Times
April 12, 2010
The pictures of Sgt. Kurt Kruize were worth a thousand eulogies.
Photos of Kruize, his wife and four children were a telling centerpiece to his visitation Sunday in St. Cloud.
Kruize, 35, died in a non-combat-related accident in Baghdad last week while serving as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves.
The scene at Kruize’s visitation Sunday underscored the shock of his untimely death. Stone-faced flag-bearers lined the sidewalks outside Williams Dingmann Funeral Home, and a throng of grieving well-wishers stretched out of the chapel.
During the visitation, Kruize’s loved ones spoke of a man devoted to country and family. Photos of Kruize depicted a tough, laconic soldier who could also be goofy and loving.
Picture after picture showed Kruize doting on his four children, ages 2-13. In one photo he grins wryly while wearing a silly hat; in another, he cradles a baby.
Angela Kray, a cousin of Kruize’s wife, Billie Jo Kruize, assembled the photos. Kray said she wanted to depict the Kurt Kruize who, despite his shyness, was often “a ham for the camera.”
And she wanted to show the Kurt Kruize who would go dress shopping with his daughters and patiently wait for them to try on each dress, just so he could tell them how pretty they looked.
“His kids were foremost for him,” Kray said. “He was a great husband and a wonderful father.”
Kruize was serving his second tour in Iraq when he died last Sunday after being pinned between a tractor and a trailer.
The accident made Kruize the first St. Cloud soldier to die in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the third from Central Minnesota. Freeport native Staff Sgt. Brian Hellermann died in Baghdad in 2003, and Cpl. Anthony McElveen of Little Falls died in an explosion in Iraq in 2005.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Buttenhoff grew up with Kruize in Hancock, where the two attended grade school together. They rekindled their friendship as adults while serving in the same Army Reserve battalion in Iraq.
Buttenhoff recalls Kruize as a willing friend who “always talked about his wife and kids.”
“It was one thing that always brought a smile to his face,” Buttenhoff said.
Kruize’s services are planned for 10:30 a.m. today at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud.
Sgt. Kurt Kruize
By Dave Aeikens
St. Cloud Times
April 8, 2010
The text message Billie Jo Kruize sent her husband, Kurt, a sergeant serving in the Army reserves in Iraq, wishing him a happy Easter went unanswered.
“I hadn’t heard anything. Usually he replies,” she said. They had made a point to communicate before and after missions.
She said she went through the next day with a strange feeling. After spending Easter with her parents in Foley, she returned home in northeast St. Cloud to find military officers waiting for her.
“I got closer, my heart just drooped. They were wearing uniforms,” Billie Jo said.
Inside the house, with her four children ages 2 though 13 in the other room, she learned that her husband, who she met in St. Cloud in 1996, was killed in a military accident in Baghdad, Iraq. He served in the St. Cloud 367th Engineer Battalion in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Kurt Kruize’s father said his son was crushed between a tractor and a trailer.
“They called it a freak accident,” he said.
Funeral arrangements are still undetermined while Billie Jo Kruize waits for the military to return his body to Minnesota. She was at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Tuesday with an aunt and a cousin.
“They had a little ceremony of him coming with casket. When I saw that, I went to my knees. It was too hard,” Kruize said.
Kurt Kruize, who would have been 36 in June, grew up in the west-central Minnesota town of Hancock, the son of Lyle and Beverly Kruize. He joined the reserves as a junior in high school in 1992. His father was an auto mechanic. Kurt moved to St. Cloud in 1993. He worked at Mills Fleet Farm and lived with his sister Tammy in a mobile home park. Tammy introduced him to Billie Jo Rosenbush, a 1993 graduate of Technical High School.
They both attended school in Detroit Lakes where Kurt was trained as an auto mechanic, the same career his father did for 38 years. He had worked as a forklift operator at Viking Coke in St. Cloud since May of 2007.
Kurt Kruize served his first tour in Iraq for 11 months in 2003. He left for his second tour Jan. 17. He trained in Texas and he shipped out for Iraq in March.
“It was hard. I didn’t want to let him go. He was crying. I was crying,” Kruize said.
Billie Jo Kruize said her husband was a great family man who lived the military and loved to cook on an outdoor grill.
“He loved the military but he loved his family. Me and our kids came first to him,” Kruize said.
He has a brother Darren, who lives in North Carolina and two sisters, Tammy Angrimson, who lives near Paynesville and Kari Standfuss of Big Lake.
Lyle Kruize said he sometimes thought about the dangers his son confronted in a war zone.
“You always worry about that. You always getting reports on TV, people are getting hurt. You never think it is going to happen to your kid, you know, Kruize said.
He said his wife returned to their Hancock home Monday and had two military officials waiting for her. They called him at work in Morris and he was told to hurry home.
“I knew it was not going to be good news,” Kruize said.
Billie Jo Kruize said she has a difficult time thinking about her husband’s death.
“Every time I talk about my husband I just cry. It really hurts me to talk about him. I do need to talk about it,” Kruize said.
Related reports on this site
Screaming Eagles’ Year of Sacrifice (Dec. 27, 2010)
Coming Home from Iraq (Dec. 4, 2010)
Iraq-Afghanistan Casualties (April 13, 2010)
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 10, 2009
Iraqi supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burn an American flag during a protest marking the sixth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to U.S.-led forces. (Photo credit: Muhannad Fala’ah / Getty Images)
One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a sandbagged wall surrounding a police headquarters in northern Iraq, killing five American soldiers and two Iraqi policemen in the single deadliest attack against U.S. forces in more than a year, while tens of thousands of supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr burned ex-President George W. Bush in effigy at a rally marking the sixth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces.
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