Twenty-year military journey ends in Hudson
Fresh out of college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jason Krueger joined the U.S. Navy in 1995 to serve his country and see the world. He planned on serving only his nine-year commitment, but that enlistment turned into a career that led to the rank of commander, earned him a Bronze Star and spanned 21 years, three countries, five states and seven cities.
With him the whole way was his wife of 20 years, Laura Krueger.
"We were having fun, still loved everything about it" Jason said. "So we decided to stay in it."
After many more than his planned years of service, Jason officially retired from the Navy in January.
During his career, Jason served as a helicopter pilot, instructor pilot, air and safety officer, did a staff tour and a 12-month tour in Afghanistan.
"I've been very lucky and had fun in all my jobs," he said.
As an avid pilot, Jason loved any job that allowed him to fly. One of his most interesting projects came on the ground, when he served as a liaison between U.S. Special Forces and the Afghanistan government and worked on big-picture projects.
Jason's career took him and his family from Madison to Milton, Fla.; San Diego, Calif.; Atsugi, Japan; and Colorado Springs, Colo., as well as deployment in Afghanistan before landing in Minneapolis with the University of Minnesota ROTC.
Though they're often asked, Jason and Laura said they do not have a favorite place.
"I've loved every place that we've been because of the people, the camaraderie," Laura said. "You get out what you put into it."
No matter where they were, Laura said they always had a good support system there. Still, being away from family was always difficult, especially when their two children, August and Callie were born.
"That was always hard," Laura said. "Grandparents weren't able to go to recitals and plays and concerts."
It was the desire for stability for their kids, now 15 and 12 years old, that led Jason to accept a posting in Minneapolis, settling his family in Hudson three years ago.
"It's about as close as we could ever be for family and in the Navy at the same time," Jason said.
The taste of stability led Jason to officially settle down and retire Jan. 20.
"I didn't want to move around anymore," Jason said. "It's just time to transition."
Now that he's retired, the Kruegers plan to stay in Hudson, ensuring their kids can stay in the same school for their high school careers.
"This is a great place to start a new career," Jason said.
"And raise kids too. The kids love it here," Laura said.
The Kruegers are also now closer to family than they've ever been, just a four-hour drive from Milwaukee relatives compared to the trek of Florida, California or Japan.
"It's the first-time ever we've been able to put down relatives as emergency contacts," Laura said.
Jason is now turning his attention to finding a job as a civilian, considering a wide array of options, specifically something in the management field.
"I did a lot of leading and managing in the Navy and I love it so I want to continue to do that," he said.
More importantly, he's making up for lost time with his family.
"Doing a lot of stuff that I missed for the kids, like going to concerts, hanging out, going on school trips, chaperoning, fun stuff," he said.
Though his naval career is over, Jason said he learned a lot from his time, and will work to instill those same values in his kids. The biggest pieces for him were teamwork and service on any level, whether it be military or otherwise.
"Service first," Jason said. "There's so many different ways that you can serve the community."