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Bracelet found on Belgian World War II battle site returned to central Ohio

Ohio (WCMH) – A Columbus family is learning just how unbreakable a bond can be.

A Belgian metal detectorist is on a mission to return lost World War II relics to their owners. He discovered a sweetheart bracelet that was lost at the site of the Battle of the Bulge.

He traced the bracelet back to a family in Westerville, and on Saturday, they all met for the first time to return this symbol of love.

The bracelet belonged to Army soldier Eugene Kohli, a gift from his then-soon-to-be wife.

Kohli’s family didn’t even know it existed until recently after metal detectorist Randy Buelens found it.

“It’s a part of history that we shouldn’t forget,” Buelens said.

When he discovered the bracelet, he knew it was special.

“I wanted to know the rest of the story,” Buelens said.

It was Kohli’s bracelet. He was serving as a soldier in the 202nd Combat Army Corps of Engineers. An Ohio native, he was known for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and building a bridge over the Rhine.

The bracelet was a gift from his future wife Marcele. On its front is his name while the back reads, “Your sweetheart, Marcele.”

“That’s something very emotional, so I really had to return this to the family,” Buelens said.

“Strangers from all over the state, saying Randy is trying to get a hold of you and I’m like, ‘Who’s Randy,’” Kohli’s daughter Candice Deubner said. “We thought it was a hoax or something.”

Buelens finally made contact with Kohli’s family in October. Now, months later, he has traveled from Belgium to central Ohio to bring the bracelet home.

“We had no idea,” Deubner said. “He never talked about it. She never did.”

Eugene Kohli died in 2015 and Marcele died in 2016. Their lineage, however, still lives on through their daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandchildren. Meeting Buelens and receiving the bracelet made it seem like taking a trip back in time.

“We found his diary that he had during the war,” Heidi Kliewer, Kohlis’ granddaughter, said.

“It shows different dates and where he went and talked a lot in the diary about different people he was with,” Deubner said.

“And actually showed the dates and it confirmed with the location where Randy found this,” Kliewer said.

Now this symbol of love is creating an unlikely friendship.

“This is like the culmination today of that, so we are very appreciative,” Deubner said.

And it is also a reminder to honor those who served their country.

“These guys liberated us almost 80 years ago and it’s the least I can do for them to return the favor,” Buelens said.

The family said Eugene and Marcele fell in love when they were both 13 years old and were married for 69 years.

This was the seventh relic Buelens has returned to families in the United States, and he still has a few more to go.

Source: NBC 4i