Roughly a year after his 1966 graduation from Lakeside Lutheran High School, Paul Kuehl volunteered for the United States Army. The tall, athletic and handsome 19-year-old was sent from Hartford, Wisconsin to Fort Campbell in Kentucky for basic training and then to a military police platoon in Fort Gordon, Georgia.
Members of Paul’s Platoon were offered options to be stationed in California or Germany. Private First Class Kuehl was one of 14 in his platoon to volunteer for stationing in Vietnam. In a letter to his sister Carol, Paul said, “I don’t feel I’d be a part of the Army if I did not go. I just can’t see everyone else going but me. You know me, I always did like action.”
Paul returned home on leave and to spend some time with family before going off to Bien Hoa in March of 1968. Upon arrival to Vietnam, the young man would spend less than two weeks there before being fatally wounded by friendly fire in a grenade exercise.
Paul was certainly a man of action. As a senior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Paul made the all-conference basketball team, the cream of the crop, one of just five players selected from the entire eastern section of the Madison area. As a guard Paul would, and could, get that ball down the court when it had to.
The basketball star, and soon to be soldier, was described by his sister Carol as being “full of life” and has been sorely missed these many years by his parents, his brothers Tom and Dan, and his sisters Carol and Rachel.
Outside of the game, Paul was not only a valued teammate; he was a good brother, who was always looking out for his siblings, especially his younger sister Rachel. Together they would often shoot hoops at the gym in Lake Mills’ Lutheran Grade School. A talented athlete, Paul would give his little sister pointers each time they played. His older sister, Carol, remembers playing softball together when they were young. He had a strong interest in sports and the outdoors, as Rachel remembers many times spent watching the Packers and Brewers
Paul was born Sept. 11, 1948 at a hospital in Marshfield, Wis. He lived his first five years just outside there in a place called McMillan, Wis. In the rural setting, Paul spent the early period of his life playing and exploring the many nearby fields with his siblings and neighbors. The son of Dietrich Kuehl, a Lutheran minister, Paul and his family moved around a lot.
From the small country town, he and his family moved to Slades Corners, a small, unincorporated community in southwestern Kenosha County. That’s where the boy would go on to spend his first four years of schooling. Soon after that, the family picked up and moved to Lake Mills where Paul would begin 5th grade and go on to finish his High School career.
Paul continued his active, outdoor lifestyle, spending lots of valued time with his friends Bobby Broker and Greg Bruenger. While at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Paul lived close to his cousin, Steve Finke. Paul would frequently visit Steve in Milwaukee where the two of them liked to go out and have fun.
Paul also had good taste in music. Rachel remembers that he loved the music of Otis Redding. His older sister Carol confirms this and said he lived the lyrics of Redding’s song, “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay.” She said that he felt that way in regards to the war. That when he was home, he was eager to get over to Vietnam and serve his country. Paul also liked Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks Of My Tears” and listened to it frequently while he was in basic training.
Even with his youthful spirit, Paul was a stand-up guy who easily socialized with older people too. He was also part of a “dartball” league with his church and was described by his sister Rachel as being sociable with all age groups. During his time in the military, he wrote to many people, including some of the older folks from his church.
His sister Rachel said Paul was always working, and that he always had a job. During high school, he worked at a gas station and auto shop. While in his senior year, he even lived above it with the owners. Paul seemed to have a strong work ethic, which is evident in his reasons for going off to Vietnam. Before joining the military, Paul moved to Hartford to work for Chrysler Corp. and live at home with his family.
Paul’s funeral was held in Hartford, Wisconsin. His high school principal, who was also a Lutheran minister, conducted the service. Paul now rests beside his mother, Hulda, and father, Dietrich, at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Hartford, Wisconsin. To this day on Memorial Day and the 4th of July, his cousin Steve visits Paul and the two have a beer just like old times. Paul is remembered for his kind, fun-loving nature, and the sacrifice he made for his country.
These days Paul’s siblings are still living in Wisconsin but are a little spread out. Paul’s youngest sibling Dan teaches English at Lakeside Lutheran High School and lives in Lake Mills. Dan carries on the athletic legacy his brother began by coaching basketball at the school.
His older sister Carol lives in Eau Claire Wis. and has been retired for about five years now. She volunteers for a couple of non-profit organizations, one of which is called “Seniors Helping Seniors.” Paul’s younger sister Rachel now lives in Sturgeon Bay Wis. She worked much of her life as a dental hygienist, but now works for the humane society of Door County. In one way or another, Paul’s siblings all seem to emulate that selfless spirit he left behind.