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Julie Kroger spent a recent Monday morning cooking up a military mess hall special for local veterans as part of the national observance of the Vietnam War Veterans Day at her small diner in Rhame.

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March 29 is something special to a generation of military servicemen and women.

The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act established it in 2017 as a day of national observance.

But at Kroger’s Kitchen in Rhame, Monday had an additional layer of respect – with a sense of humor.

A local couple arranged for veterans to receive a free breakfast at the diner – with the owner offering up a familiar military morning mess hall staple nicknamed S-O-S (chipped beef and gravy on toast) in addition to the regular choices.

Twenty-five veterans participated from Marmarth to Rhame and Bowman in the free breakfast which Bruce and Gwen Jones paid the restaurant for.

According to owner Julie Kruger, the breakfast was a success. “They came in from 6 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.,” she said. “The main thing was the S-O-S and I served it with two eggs and hash browns. Or they could have their choice of what was on the menu.

“We had some from Korea, Vietnam and some of the younger ones from the Gulf wars,” she explained.

In Rhame, the S-O-S turned out to be chipped beef and gravy on toast.

The free veterans breakfast was something that had been planned for 2020, but COVID-19 happened. “It just never worked out for us, so this was our first one,” she explained, adding that it won’t be the last. “But I would like to see it grow a little more.”

The veterans came in mostly around 8 a.m. “A few came in early.”

She added that when they have veterans’ events on Veterans Day (in November) they have had a similar response from the region.  

Kruger’s Kitchen has been open since 2017, while also doing catering on the side. “I work full time here and then I do about 10 percent catering.” As for business, she added that it has been getting better every year.

She credited the Joneses for coming up with the plan. “It was their brainstorm. We had talked about it last year. They came back in the beginning of March and talked to me about doing it again.”

When it comes to her menu. Kruger said it is pretty basic for breakfast. “It is bacon, eggs and hash browns. We have a Frisco Burger (hamburger on sourdough bread with cheese, bacon and tomato) that people like on the lunch menu.” When it comes to the supper menu, Kruger said the favorites include chicken-fried steaks, steaks and shrimp.

On Valentines Day and New Years, a favorite is a surf and turf plate, she added. “On St. Patrick’s Day, we have corned beef and cabbage.

“I used to do buffets, but my place is just not big enough for buffets,” she explained.

When it comes down do the menu, it is just plain American food, she said. “But with home-cooked specials.

The diner has a capacity of 51 people, with a number of locals stopping by as they travel along Highway 12. “On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we also have senior meals for people 55 and over,” she said. “You have to be part of our seniors program at the senior center in Rhame.”

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