The American Legion is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2019. In addition to national and statewide activities commemorating this milestone, American Post 328 of St. Joseph is planning a number of festive and patriotic activities for the community.
One of those special events will be profiles of St. Joseph-area veterans 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
Raymond George Rueckert, 70
U.S. Army/ Vietnam Era
Raymond Rueckert was born at St. Cloud Hospital. He was raised on a 160-acre farm in Morrison County. The family raised dairy cattle, chickens and “lots of pigs.” Milking the cows and feeding the pigs before school, given the time constraints, often resulted in certain fragrances accompanying him to class. Work at home was a priority over playing any sports.
Rueckert said he remembers the farm finally getting electricity when he was 6 years old. Rural electric service came to the farm in 1955. The outdoor toilet and the outdoor well freezing up are just memories of bygone days.
Rueckert attended a two-room country school – one teacher for sixth, seventh and eighth grades. It was an adjustment when he commenced high school in the much larger Foley High School.
Rueckert doesn’t recall the family having a lot. Hard work on the farm was the norm: a work load he shared with his older brother and parents.
After high school, Rueckert worked on the farm and also at Franklin Manufacturing. Just before he was drafted into the army in August 1970, his parents sold the farm. Rueckert was 21 years old when he completed basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
This was perhaps his first experience with being immersed into the wider world of multicultural diversity. Rueckert said he vaguely recalls sharing with the Army his interest in perhaps someday becoming a veterinarian. He was transferred to Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, for specific training in becoming a combat medic. After training, he was ordered to Wurzberg, Germany where he was assigned to the Third Infantry Division, Fourth Brigade, First Battalion.
Before his departure to Germany, Rueckert was promised: “Every day in Germany will be like Sunday and every evening like Saturday night.” During his 14 months in Germany, Rueckert had an opportunity to travel about somewhat, including Salzburg and Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden. He also visited Paris taking in the sights among which were the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci at the Louvre Museum as well as looking out over Paris from the Cathedral Notre Dame Bell Tower. (The beautiful church that recently caught fire)
Rueckert is rightly proud in having been awarded the Army’s Expert Field Medical Badge.
As a soldier in a medic platoon, he was out in the field for training much of the time. He found the locals around the base to be very friendly. On one particular evening Rueckert and others were involved in a night compass course exercise. Somehow the group ended up on a farmer’s property. The farmer invited the GIs in for a libation and fellowship. So much for completing the compass course.
While in the Army, Rueckert took a college course in criminology. Because the Army was downsizing, he was given somewhat of an “early out.” He was discharged on March 14, 1972, and he immediately enrolled at St. Cloud State University. While going to college Rueckert worked at Franklin Manufacturing and later as a nursing assistant at the VA hospital in St. Cloud.
Rueckert was awarded a bachelor’s degree in medical technology. After serving a one-year internship at St. Cloud Hospital he was offered full-time employment.
Besides responsibilities related to routine laboratory testing, he spent 14 years assisting on autopsies. This particular assignment helped him develop a real appreciation for the resilience of the human body, in spite of how humans may not necessarily take care of this wonderfully complex creation.
Rueckert is in the process of retiring from full-time employment at St. Cloud Hospital, where he’s worked for 44 years. The hospital, reluctant to lose a loyal and competent employee, asked him to stay on as a “casual part-time employee.”
While in Germany, Rueckert commenced letter writing with his new pen pal. Prior to his departure for the Army, he had a few dances with her at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Actually he did not know her, but in the course of their letter writing, he told an Army buddy, “I’m going to marry that woman.” The day after Rueckert returned to St. Cloud, he had his first real date with Joann (March 15, 1972). As the saying goes the rest is history.
Ray and Joann became engaged in 1972 and were married in December of 1973 (while he continued to work and go to school). They will have been married 46 years this December. They have a son, four daughters and eight grandchildren.
Rueckert is in good health, which he attributes to proper diet and exercise. He and Joann are avid bicycle riders. He also enjoys woodworking. He and Joann or both active in their parish.
Rueckert has been a member of American Legion Post 328 for 40 years. Since 1980, he has been a member of the color guard; one of its duties is to lead the Fourth of July parade.
As a former army medic, Rueckert shares this bit of advice if one per chance comes upon an injured person.
“Remember the A – B – C-s: Make sure the Airway is open; stop the Bleeding; Cover for shock.