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Talking it over -- 4-15-10

A soldier dying while in service to his or her country is something that tugs at the heart strings of nearly everyone who hears it. However, when that soldier is someone you know personally it is even more difficult.

It has been a number of years since our community has suffered the loss of a soldier who died while serving their country. As far as I am concerned, we could have gone a number of additional years. This is not a statistic you want to see increase. However, the fact is that Kurt Kruize has become the latest Hancock hometown hero who gave all for his country.

I think I first met Kurt way back in his pre-school years, perhaps at a pre-school screening. He and my son were preparing for kindergarten. He was one of the few boys in their class that at times numbered only eight or nine with an equal number of girls. It was a very small class for those years and, consequently, you got to know the students quite well.

Kurt was always quiet, especially compared to some of the other boys in the class. He would just stand back with his shy smile and enjoy their antics, not usually joining in but still a part of it. He visited when you talked to him but was not one to start up a conversation. I can still remember the twinkle in his eye when he would attend school events in his uniform. You just knew that he was so proud to be a soldier and would do anything for his country.

Over the years you could see Kurt, along with all his classmates, mature, grow and become strong young men and women. Kurt's initial goal in life was to work on cars, just like his father, while serving in the military part-time. Eventually, this work took him to the St. Cloud area where he later moved, was married and raised his family.

I didn't see too much of him, but occasionally got an update from one of his parents, grandmother or a classmate. I had heard that he was serving in Iraq on his first deployment but was surprised that he was on his second tour. However, I wasn't surprised that he was continuing in service to his country as this was simply something he always wanted to do.

Kurt was one of those young men who would do anything for you. He was helpful, courteous and kind. I never heard a bad word from him and I would be very surprised if he was ever sent to the principal's office or needed to be disciplined to any degree. He would bend over backwards to help in any way.

With this in mind, I know that giving his life for his country would have been something he was willing to do. The fact that he had already given 18 years to the Army was a testament to his commitment. When you define the term hometown hero, it would be easy to describe it through the example of Kurt Kruize. A shy and humble soldier who loved his family and gave all for his country.