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Talking It Over: Mixed emotions as local soldiers return from war

Just a few days after we welcomed back the soldiers from this area who left one year ago to serve in Iraq, we received news that another area soldier died during his service there. The happiness of one reception was shadowed by the grief of another.

The large contingent of soldiers from west central Minnesota who spent a year in Iraq are now back and safe. It has been a long and difficult year, not only for them but also for their families. I joined the many people who lined the streets last Saturday and filled the University of Minnesota, Morris PE Center to welcome them home. It was a wonderful event and filled with tears of joy, welcoming hugs and thankful hearts.

Those in attendance heard about the soldiers' duties and accomplishments while serving in Iraq. They also learned about the wonderful people who were back home helping their families. You could feel the pride for country and hope for freedom emanating from the soldiers and their families.

As I watched the honors bestowed on these deserving young men and women I also stopped to think about the thousands of soldiers serving in other countries, both past and present. They are all so deserving of our thanks and we need to remember each and every one of them, whether they come back in a large group or individually.

Little did I know at the time, that a few days later I would be comforting the parents of another soldier. Lyle and Bev Kruize of Hancock will not have the opportunity to greet their son, Kurt, in this same way. Instead, he returned home to a different type of hero's welcome as soldiers escorted his remains from Iraq to Minnesota.

I knew Kurt quite well. He was in my son's class and spent many afternoons at our home with Jamie. He was at several birthday parties and other get-togethers involving the boys and their class. I remember that Kurt had a love for his country that showed even in high school, as he joined the military while still in school. In fact, he wore his army uniform to prom with the greatest of pride.

Even as we honor the heroes who returned here last weekend, we need to continue to remember the many others who are still serving our country overseas. They all need our prayers, praise and hope for a safe return. And to those who give their all, a vow: We will never forget this gift.