The American Legion is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2019. Profiles of St. Joseph-area veterans will be published in each Newsleader during 2019. The Newsleader is joining with Post 328 to recognize veterans and Legion members who served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters of conflict and Cold War tensions.
by Tom Klecker
Lloyd Augustine Bruemmer, 72
U.S. Navy – Vietnam Era
Lloyd Bruemmer was born at St Cloud Hospital. He was the fifth child of 12. He was raised on a 200-acre farm just outside of Farming. At the time Farming was an unincorporated community of 15-20 persons, yet it had a public two-room school house.
Bruemmer was brought up in a large two-story farm house. The house was originally a log home built around 1850, before Minnesota became a state in 1858. The house became a residence for 16 people, including grandparents.
The grandparents conversed and prayed in German, but Bruemmer’s mother taught the children English.
Bruemmer recalls as he got older, he was expected to get up at 5 a.m. for chores which included feeding the cows and cleaning out the barn’s manure. After breakfast he got ready for school. He recalls being teased or shunned like other farm kids because of his “farm smell.”
Bruemmer was raised with a strong Catholic upbringing. “No other faith was practiced at that time around Farming.”
You milked the cows before Church on Sunday. He was an altar boy. If it was necessary to work on Sunday or a Holy Day of obligation, a farmer needed the permission of the parish priest.
Indoor plumbing came to the house when Bruemmer was 6. The house was heated with fuel oil at a cost of 11 cents a gallon.
The family butchered chickens, hogs and cattle. They were self-sufficient. Among the other responsibilities Bruemmer’s mother canned meat and produce from the garden. Looking at all the canned food in the cellar was a “comfortable and secure feeling. We may have been poor, but we never knew it.”
Bruemmer fondly remembers the family life on the farm “as being so calm and peaceful, there was so much respect for parents and grandparents.”
Formal schooling could be problematic for Bruemmer. The two-room country school had four grades in each classroom. He recalls one teacher in particular. That teacher wore Army khakis, yelled all the time and carried a 4-foot long club. Bruemmer assumed he may well have been a World War II veteran with problems.
After 8 years at country school, Bruemmer began attending high school in Albany. When he was a freshman, with a pocket full of shells, he brought his semi-automatic – 22 cal. rifle to school for gun safety class. He recalls how the teacher set up sand bags for target practice on the auditorium stage. At the very same time the girls practiced volleyball or basketball down on the court. Today you can’t bring a fingernail file to school.
Bruemmer said he “hated” high school so much so that he quit after two years to work on the farm. Two years later he returned and graduated in 1967. He was 20 years old. The chairperson of the local draft board, Mary Adams, would frequently call the school to check whether or not Bruemmer was still in school.
On Aug. 20, 1967, Bruemmer enlisted in the Navy for four years. He doesn’t recall as to why he specifically joined the Navy. “Everyone else seemingly was going into the Army.” There was no discussion about the matter with his parents.
After completing 10 weeks of basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Facility outside Chicago, Bruemmer was ordered directly to Little Creek, Virginia. He was assigned to the Assault Craft Unit-2.
Given Bruemmer’s test scores in basic training as also the acute needs of the Navy, he was designated the rate of fireman. Shortly after he was performing the duties of an engineman. An engineman is responsible for operating, servicing and repairing the internal combustion engines of large ships and smaller craft.
Inside a large ship such as a Landing Ship Dock, smaller crafts are stored for assault landing of a hostile beach. Some of these Landing Craft are designed for amphibious landings and they carry one tank each. A landing ship dock can put ashore up to five armored tanks.
Bruemmer was deployed twice to the Mediterranean Sea for amphibious landing practice on foreign soil. He traveled on the USS Casa Grande and the USS Pocona. The Pocona was the flag ship of the amphibious unit portion of the 6th Fleet. That’s where the admiral operated from.
Bruemmer reports the two six-month trips to the Mediterranean provided him the opportunity to become more proficient in his duties. He also visited a number of foreign countries: Italy, Greece, France, Malta, Spain and Gibraltar.
For a while Bruemmer considered re-enlisting in the Navy for another four years. Given his rank (E-5) and a $10,000 re-enlisting bonus some discernment was required.
During this time (last two years of his enlistment) Bruemmer was assigned to staff duty at the Little Creek Amphibious Base. The assignment involved maintaining the engines of the admiral’s barge and the chief of staff’s “gig” (a small boat). He decided to leave the Navy and seek his fortunes in civilian life. Bruemmer applied for and was selected for a rather unique and innovative program, Project Transition, a collaborative effort between the Navy and civilian contractors.
Bruemmer was working for a heating and air conditioning contractor. He was still in the Navy and paid by the Navy but he worked for a civilian contractor. He completed this program “tops” in his class.
Bruemmer was honorably discharged from the Navy on Aug. 20, 1971. He drove home in a newly purchased 1969 Ford Fairlane. He came home for a week or so then drove to Florida. A Navy buddy told Bruemmer there was a big demand in Florida for a person with his knowledge and skills in heating and air conditioning. What his “buddy” failed to share was the prevailing wage was $2.50 an hour.
After a month, Bruemmer met his future wife. They dated for a few months and then got married. She was a teacher. Shortly, the newlyweds moved back to Minnesota. Upon returning to Minnesota, he worked for Three-Way Construction for two years. Later he worked for Gherkin Landscaping for a year.
In 1977, Bruemmer found his vocation in the heating and air conditioning business. He worked for Granite City Heating for 20 years. After that he entered into a business partnership, which was called Park Heating and Air Conditioning. As part of that business, he and his partners had a maintenance contract with the coal-fired Sherco plant in Becker. After 18 years, he retired.
Bruemmer’s first marriage of 18 years ended in divorce. From this union were born a son (in law enforcement) and a daughter (Doctor of Audiology). He has nine grandchildren.
In 1999, Bruemmer married Juanita. They live in a beautifully remodeled home near Pleasant Acres – most all of the work done by Bruemmer.
He has many interests, plays cards and volunteers. He is an exceptionally talented woodworker.
Bruemmer has been an active and much appreciated member of the American Legion Post 328 for eight years. He is also a Fourth-Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.
Bruemmer is appreciative of his Navy experience in that it provided him a good education and opportunity to see the world. It also pointed him in the direction of a rewarding career.