DALLAS, TX, USA
LTC, HHC, 2D BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM, FORT CARSON, CO
BAGHDAD, IRAQ 11/02/2006
Lieutenant Colonel Eric John Kruger figured serving in the Army was a privilege, just like three generations of his family before him.
His great grandfather served in World War I, his grandfather in World War II and his father in Vietnam. When Iraq and Afghanistan came around, it was Eric Kruger’s turn to fight.
On November 2, 2006, Kruger, the deputy commander of Fort Carson’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, was killed along with two others when a roadside bomb destroyed their Humvee in Baghdad. He was the highest ranking Fort Carson officer to die in Iraq.
“Eric was killed his first day in country,” said his longtime friend, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Parker, after a memorial service Wednesday at Fort Carson’s Soldiers’ Memorial Chapel. “But what’s more important, I think, are the things that took Eric there: his love of country, his love of the Army and his dedication to his family.”
Kruger was born into an Army family in Heidelberg, Germany. At age 40, with 17 years of service and fresh from a tour in Afghanistan, he volunteered for Fort Carson’s 2nd Brigade.
He was taking his orientation tour with Lieutenant Colonel Paul Finken of the 4th Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the unit Kruger was relieving, and their driver, Staff Sergeant Joseph A. Gage, when the bomb killed them all.
As devoted an Army man as Kruger was, he was far from one-dimensional, Parker and others recalled during the memorial service.
Kruger was a “perpetual optimist” who loved adventure and new experiences, Parker said.”He was curious about everything. He lived every day.”
Parker recalled taking family vacations – he and his wife along with the Krugers and their four children. And there was their yearlong tour of duty together in Botswana that included some nerve-rattling adventures. When Kruger wanted to watch a migration of an animal herd, he was not content with watching from a hilltop. He hired a crop duster to take him, Parker and another soldier closer to the action. A photo taken after the flight was revealing, said Parker.
“There’s me, with a look of ‘I can’t believe we did that.’ There’s Pat, who was sick to his stomach, and there’s Eric, who’s got a look of pure exhilaration.
“The lesson I took from that was that if you want to do more and see more, you’ve got to go to higher ground.
“That’s where Eric Kruger took everybody that he encountered.”
Kruger’s commanding officer, Colonel Jeffrey Bannister, wrote a tribute to his deputy commander that was read at the service. Bannister called Kruger a leader who was “naturally gifted with people, and could make soldiers and civilians alike feel welcome and at ease.”
“When it comes to talking about heroes, some may throw the title out without taking the true meaning of the word,” wrote Bannister. “At the end of the day on 2 November 2006, no one could have asked for more, and he gave the last full measure of his devotion to our nation.” Kruger was buried last month at Arlington National Cemetery.