Black-and-white photos in a scrapbook are reminders of Don Kuhlman's experiences during the Korean War. Many of those memories are marked by loss of fellow soldiers on the battlefield. Still, he holds those memories dear in honor of the service and sacrifice.
“You hate to see people killed until you actually have to do it yourself,” Kuhlman said. “It is tough the first time you have to pull the trigger.”
A Purple Heart and dog tags are framed and hanging on the wall. Kuhlman, a private in the 7th U.S. Army Division was wounded during the Battle of Pork Chop Hill.
Kuhlman went up that hill with more than 400 men. Too many never came back down.
“They told me there were only 33 of us that came back,” Kuhlman said.
Mixed among Kuhlman’s photos and memorabilia was a memory of another soldier. It is something Kuhlman had carried for 60 years.
“I was standing there watching these guys throwing dice up against the wall, and one guy turned around and he said to me, 'Do you have any money?' and I said, 'All I’ve got is two bucks.' So I gave him $2 and I said, 'What are you going to give me in collateral?' and he gives me his wristwatch,” Kuhlman said.
Minutes later, Kuhlman was sent to the battlefield in Korea. He never again saw the soldier who had given him the watch.
At 82 years old, Kuhlman decided he wanted to return the watch to the soldier, but it offered few clues about the owner. “M.L. Moore” and a serial number were engraved on the back. Don Kuhlman contacted Richard Hasse, at the Columbia County Veteran’s Service Office, and asked for help. Hasse began a search of records to find the veteran.
“He called me about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and he said, 'I’ve got good news,'” Kuhlman said.
The Veteran’s Service Office helped to arrange for the watch to be presented to the widow of Moses Moore at an armory in Mullins, S.C. Moses Moore died in 1981.
Don Kuhlman watched the watch presentation using a webcam from the Veteran’s Service Office in Portage. It gave Moses Moore’s daughter, Shanti Moore the chance to express what the watch means to the family.
“It is a memory that we’ll now have, something from that time frame that we never had before,” Shanti Moore said.
Kuhlman said the presentation of the watch to Moore’s family is the closure of a chapter in his life.
“At least it is home where it belongs,” Kuhlman said.