Sunday, April 24, 2011
Kim Colter stands on the steps of the airplane that brought him to the United States and his adopted family in 1958.
For the Tribune
It took years to get from his birth home in Korea to his new home and new parents in America, but now Kim has been in America more than 50 years, and he’s glad his life took the turns it did.
Kim’s adoptive father, Freedus Colter of Laporte, was one of those soldiers in Korea back then, during the Korean War. Said Freedus: “The story they told us was that he was just a little boy when an American soldier saw his mother shot and killed on the streets of Seoul. No one came to help her, no one came to help the little boy, so the soldier brought him home to the Army post. The commanding officer told them they could make the little boy their company mascot.”
So, back in Korea during a war, 60 years ago, the U.S. Army 21st Infantry, 24th Division, became the parents of the little boy named Kim.
Kim doesn’t remember what happened before the soldiers. “I remember the barracks, and they had a cot for me, and remember the cowboy boots they gave me,” Kim said. “I wouldn’t take them off, even to go to bed.”
The soldiers provided the little boy with a cot in the barracks and brought him clothing and food. He lived in the barracks on the post.
“He had a little cap gun someone gave him,” Freedus said. “When it came to inspections, he’d clean his cap gun like the soldiers cleaned their rifles and even shined his shoes. He got us through a lot of inspections.”
Freedus was among the last of the GIs to care for the “mascot.” Freedus was in Korea a year, and he’d write home to his wife about the little boy and how great he was.
“When I was shipped home, I thought about adopting him, but I knew I wanted to try to convince my wife, face-to-face,” Freedus said. “But she beat me to it. After I’d been home just a short time, Evelyn said, ‘Why don’t we adopt that little boy?’ ”
So the adoption process began, through an American woman who was caring for orphaned or abandoned children in Korea. She found the little boy they called “Kim” and asked if he wanted to live in America.
“I thought it was wonderful,” Kim said. “I never stopped smiling on the whole trip here.”
Kim was 9 years old when he flew on the plane to America to be with his new parents. They lived in Denver then, where Kim was advanced quickly through elementary school. His knowledge of the English language was better than his Korean.
The family moved to Laporte, and Kim eventually graduated from Poudre High School in Fort Collins. Now 63 years old, he and his wife, Valorie, have three adult daughters and eight grandchildren.
Kim works for Golden Aluminum in Fort Lupton and knows he’s not far from retirement.
“Maybe when I retire, I might like to go back to Korea, just to see it,” he said. “I remember the rice paddies, and I remember the candy bars from the soldiers.”
Next weekend, father and son will take a trip together, with dozens of other veterans, on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. Freedus is the vet, and Kim will be the companion, helping his father along the way.
They both look forward to seeing the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
Staff writer Mike Peters’ column about Weld County people appears Mondays in The Tribune. His humor column, the Gnarly Trombone, appears Saturdays.