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The legend behind the Legion

Perhaps you’ve stopped at the Pequot Lakes American Legion for a burger or bingo night, or for Breakfast with Santa or the Easter Bunny.

Many people might not realize, though, that the Pequot Lakes American Legion Post 49 is named for Ben Krueger, a local man who lost his life in World War I.

Six area men died in service during World War I. John Carlson, Grant Young, Levi Richmond, William Olson, Charlie Ferguson and Ben Krueger served their country and did not make it home. Most died in combat; Richmond died of diphtheria on a ship coming back to the United States.

Krueger was one of eight children to Herman and Louisa Kruger. Legion documents show that Krueger’s name had been spelled “Kruger;” however, when the Legion mistakenly added the “e,” Krueger’s living family members asked that it remain that way.

Krueger was born Dec. 9, 1886. He was called to service in the draft Aug. 3, 1917, and was first transferred to Camp Dodge, Iowa, before being sent to New Jersey, then to France in July 1918.

In a letter from France to his mother, Krueger writes, “I must write a few lines to tell you that I am still well and alive yet. This country is very rainy ... I wish that this war was over with so we could go back to the states.”

Krueger asks about the other men from the area who were called to service, and closes the letter with a P.S.: “Please pray for me and I will do the same for you.”

He died just 18 days later in machine gun fire, on Oct. 4, 1918. He was 31.

In a letter from one of Krueger’s five brothers (he also had two sisters), Ezra Krueger tells Ben about the harvest of potatoes, beans, oats, rye and other plants. He asks Ben if he’s in the trenches. At that time, Ezra didn’t know that his brother would never read the letter, which was dated Oct. 27, 1918. Ben’s family didn’t learn of his death until mid-December, by telegram, nearly two months after his death.

Krueger’s family was informed of his final resting place by a letter dated March 19, 1923 — three and a half years after he died. He’s buried in Muese-Argonne American Cemetery in northeastern France.

Krueger’s niece, Betty Hanson, has some information on Krueger. Her information shows that the Legion was named for Krueger because he was the first area man to be called to service.

The first American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919, according to the American Legion website. There are now 14,000 posts worldwide. Minnesota has around 560 posts.

Officials from the American Legion organization said that because so many posts were created around the same time, the Pequot Lakes American Legion Post 49 might not truly be the 49th created; however, it was one of the first in the state.

The Legion is a service organization that gives more than $50,000 a year. It sponsors scholarships, local Boy Scout troops, support to local families, veterans’ affairs, high school band, the Pequot swim program and more.

According to Life Magazine, the United States got involved in World War I in 1917, and in four years, 9 million soldiers were killed — that’s 5,600 each day.

(Reporter’s note: Special thanks goes to Jack Schmidt for making this story possible.)