Soldier from central Minnesota dies in Iraqby Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio
Hancock, Minn. — An Army reservist from St. Cloud has died in Iraq a month after returning to the country for his second tour of duty.
Sgt. Kurt Kruize died from non-combat injuries on Easter Sunday, according to the Pentagon. A public affairs officer with Kruize's unit said Kruize was involved in an incident in the motor pool, but provided no further details.
Kruize is the 90th person with strong Minnesota ties to die in connection with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Billie Jo Kruize, 35, said two military personnel came to visit her at home on Monday to tell her that her husband, Sgt. Kurt Kruize, had died on Sunday in Baghdad.
"When they told me, I kind of lost it," she said.
Kruize said the news was too much to bear. Kurt Kruize served with the St. Cloud 367th Engineer Battalion in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Billie Jo said she and Kurt talked often on the phone, including just last week. They mostly talked about family and very little about his work.
"He was going to give me a call before going on a mission. He didn't tell me what he was doing," she said. "He just had a mission and I never heard from him and then this Monday, I found out why I haven't heard from him since."
Billie Jo Kruize said the military personnel who gave her the news shared very little information about what happened.
"Because there is a lot of stuff going on... [an] investigation," she said. "I won't find out anything out until it's all over, so I really don't know myself what happened until the investigation and everything gets all done. And that could take up to two months."
The military flew Billie Jo to Dover Air Force Base in Del., where her husband's body arrived Tuesday night.
"They had a little ceremony of him coming out of the airplane. When I seen them take him out with the flag over -- I couldn't handle it," she said. "Right now it's too much. Too overwhelming. Too much at one time."
She returned to St. Cloud, where her house is packed with family and friends.
Bonnie Durgin, Billie Jo's sister, said Kurt couldn't have been a better brother-in-law. She said Billie Jo and Kurt were inseparable. She remembers a time the family went dirt-biking together.
"She was riding the dirt bike and poor Kurt, I felt so sorry for him because she couldn't stop the darn thing, and so he had to run after her really fast and he's trying really hard," Durgin recalled. "She would have run into a tree if Kurt hadn't stopped her."
Durgin said Kurt loved the outdoors, especially fishing. His mother-in-law, Evelyn Rosenbush, also has very fond memories of him. She also talked to him a few days before Easter. Rosenbush said ever since Kruize started to date her daughter, he's always done her holiday decorations.
"[He] told me if he could hop a plane and put my Easter stuff up, he would be home in a minute," Rosenbush said.
Kurt Kruize grew up in the west central Minnesota town of Hancock. Billie Jo said she met him in 1993 through his older sister. They married in 1998 and have four children together, ranging in age from 2 to 13.
Billie Jo said Kurt would have turned 36 in June. She said his military service dates back nearly 18 years; he joined the Army Reserves when he was still in high school.
"He is a true hero to everybody, but he's a true hero to me in my heart," she said. "He will be truly missed, and he will be in my heart forever because he's the love of my life -- and I do miss him."
Billie Jo Kruize said funeral arrangements have not been set yet. She said her husband will receive a full military funeral.
- Morning Edition, 04/08/2010, 7:25 a.m.