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Brothers in arms

Press Photo by Beth Wischmeyer Kermit Kruger, right, is seen with his wife, Kassie, and son, Kelly, at Badlands Brew in Dickinson. Kruger was one of eight brothers from Marmarth who served in the military.1 / 2
Press Photo by Lisa Call U.S. Army veteran Kermit Kruger, 64, shown here at Badlands Brew in Dickinson, is one of eight Kruger brothers from Marmarth who served in the military.2 / 2

Marmarth resident and U.S. Army veteran Delbert Kruger shares a lot more with his brothers than being related, seven of eight were also in the military.

All in all, Delbert had one in the Navy, one in the Marine Corps and five brothers in the Army.

The family, comprised of nine boys and four girls, grew up in Marmarth, where Delbert still works today.

Delbert, the oldest, said he was drafted into the Army in about 1951, when he was 19. He's now 78 years old.

"During the Christmas holiday, my brother next to me (in a picture, Darel), he always liked the Navy and I liked the Army, so he said, 'I think we should enlist.' Being that we differ, we thought maybe we should join the Marine Corps," Delbert said. "I said maybe we should wait until after the Christmas holidays and see what happens. It so happened that on the second day of January I got a draft notice."

Eventually, Darel spent time in the Navy and then in the Army.

"They (my parents) were supportive after we got in, but when I got drafted they thought I was going into combat, because they were fighting in Korea," Delbert said. "When I came home on leave a couple of times I could explain to them what it was like. They were supportive though, all the time."

Louise Kruger, Delbert's mother, would bake cookies and candy and send them to him, he said.

"A lot of times she didn't put it in a good enough container and my cookies were mostly crumbs, so I was kind of ashamed to share with my buddies," Delbert said with a laugh.

Kermit Kruger, 64, an Army veteran, enlisted when he was 18 and was eventually stationed in Germany, where his first child, Kelly, was born.

Kermit's wife, Kassie, joined him in Germany shortly after they were married and spent about two years there.

"It was quite different (living in Germany)," Kermit said. "When we were there it was a good time to be overseas -- it took over four marks to make a dollar. Both my wife and I did a lot of traveling while we were there, were able to see other foreign countries."

Kermit said he didn't see combat.

After Germany, the couple came back to Fort Carson, Colo., until he was discharged. They also spent time in a number of places following his discharge, including Medora, where they were involved in agriculture for a number of years.

The couple, who has 10 children and 23 grandchildren, now lives in Smiths Grove, Ky.

Some of Kermit and Kassie's children are also involved in the military, he said, adding he and his wife didn't discourage them.

Delbert said he also had the opportunity to sightsee while overseas.

In 1950, Delbert said he watched the movie "The Man on the Eiffel Tower" and said he dreamed of seeing the monument in France some day.

Through the service, he did.

He still remembers vividly the day he saw it, and said it wasn't what he expected, "It was more."

Delbert said he was aboard the Gen. Nelson M. Walker troopship and he and some other veterans would like to see a troopship again.

"I was glad for the opportunity to go overseas," Delbert said. "In the summertime, the Atlantic Ocean is just as placid as pavement. We'd watch movies out on deck."

A mix-up in his orders kept Delbert in for an extra week beyond the 24 months that he was supposed to spend enlisted, and it "about killed" him.

"I was in such a hurry to get out of there and get home," Delbert said, though he added he enjoyed his time in the military.

Though not all of his brothers were in the military at the same time, he said when they get together they discuss their times in the service.

The surviving brothers: Delbert, Allen, Ronald, Kermit, Bruce and Darwin, are scattered across the U.S.

"We tell what they call 'war stories,'" Delbert said with a chuckle. "None of us were what you'd call war protestors or anything like that. I had to register for draft and when it came time for me to go I considered it a duty, so I went."

Two of the eight Kruger brothers who were in the military, Darel and Gary, have passed away.

Delbert said he feels being in the military is beneficial.

"I talked to my brothers and they said at the time of training you don't think much of it, but after you're in there a while you make friends, and it wouldn't hurt everybody to go in for a short time," Delbert said.

Kermit agrees.

"I thought it was a good experience," Kermit said. "I think it'd be a better world today if we still had the draft, and not necessarily people going to combat, but I think it's a good experience.

"Had it not been for the Army, I don't know where I'd be, my folks didn't have the money to send me to college."