6 members of the Arendt family serve total of 78 years in the military

The Arendt family is featured in this year's Salute to Veterans, which was inserted in the Friday, Nov. 5, Echo Press.

Among the many names listed at Alexandria's Veterans Memorial Park is that of the late Dr. Robert J. Arendt, who served in World War II.

Not only is his name listed, but five of his seven children are, as well, with a total of 78 years served in the military.

"I think it's pretty amazing what the family has done," said Robert's son, Tom Arendt.

Robert joined the Army in 1942, Tom said.

After the war Robert and his wife, Rose, came to Alexandria, and he practiced as a dentist there for many years. He died in 1995.


"He went in as a dentist because he had just graduated from dental school and didn't have a practice yet," he said.

Robert went to England in 1943, and went farther into Europe after the Normandy invasion, serving with the same group through the duration of the war, eventually becoming one of the liberators of the Dachau concentration camp.

"I think that had a huge effect on him," Tom said. "He never really talked about it, but there were photos that we had growing up. He took a lot of photos in the war and he brought those back and did really nothing with them except leave them in a big box.

"As kids … we'd just page through those photos and couldn't believe what we were seeing, because he didn't want to talk about it," Tom said.

Many of those pictures are now available on a website,, which is dedicated to the men that served in the U.S. Tank Destroyer Forces.

Five of Robert's seven children also joined the military.


The oldest, Joseph, served for 30 years in the Navy.

"The vast majority of that was in submarines. He actually served on the second nuclear submarine built for the U.S. Navy," Tom said.

Another brother, Steven, also served 30 years in the Navy after attending the U.S. Naval Academy, eventually attaining the rank of Captain.


"He flew A-6 attack bombers off the U.S.S. Enterprise in Vietnam for a tour," Tom said. "After that he had an issue, I think it might have been a vertigo type issue, so he got out of flying after his tour in Vietnam and went into naval intelligence."

Steven died of pancreatic cancer in 2012 and is buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.

"It was an incredible ceremony," Tom said. "The whole family and a lot of relatives went. It was an incredible, full-out, casons and band and everything. It was pretty amazing."

The next sibling to join was William, who served three years in the Navy as a quartermaster on a sub rescue ship.


"Quartermasters track where the ship is so everybody knows where it is," Tom explained.

William went on to become a respiratory therapist in Minneapolis and has since retired.

Tom also joined the Navy and served for four years.

"I went into the Navy because I tried college for a couple of semesters at St. Cloud State and couldn't get involved, and so a friend of mine I was living with at the time said, 'Let's go in on the buddy system,' and so we did that," he said.

Part of his time in the Navy was served in Vietnam.

"I was on a destroyer that they used as a fire station off the coast," Tom said. "They did that with many, many ships and I was on one of them for a few months. We would just fire into Vietnam as directed."

The last sibling to join was Ann, who served seven years in the Air Force. She died in 1995.

Tom said several members of the next generation of the family have joined up, as well. One of Joseph's sons has already served 30 years in the Army, and two of Joseph's grandsons are in the military, too. William also had a son that served in the Army.

"There's lots and lots of military throughout the family," Tom said.

Although Robert Arendt never pushed his children to join the military, Tom said the fact that so many of them did join was a source of pride.

"I think he was pretty proud of the situation," Tom said. "I think he appreciated all of our time in. When you add it all up, it's quite a bit."

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