I learned that the loss of the medal was so traumatic, the son keeping it did not disclose it to the other family members.
Now the hard part. How do I get the medal back to the family? I could send it to the Uzbek Embassy in Washington DC, but decided not to. If the medal and booklet were "lost" in transit, I would have no recourse. So I decided to enlist the help of our ambassador to Uzbekistan, John Edward Herbst. He assigned Stefanie Altman, the assistant Public Affairs Officer for
Older portrait of Hero Umirdinov
A portrait of Umurdinov, in his older years.
the US Embassy in Tashkent, to handle this matter. She contacted Mr. Rakhmatzon Umurdinov and made all the arrangements for the return ceremony. Before I could send the medal, I had to find an appropriate case. When I returned home with a plastic medal case which I bought from a local trophy store, my wife was incredulous. "You can't send that medal back in a cheap plastic case!" my wife shrieked. "Go to Cal's Jewelers in Temple City (CA) and get something nice!" I did. I took the medal to the shop and told my story to Cal. He picked out a nice case and said, "No charge!"
I sent the medal to the State Dept. mailing facility in Virginia, and it arrived safely at the embassy via diplomatic pouch. I was relieved!
On August 9, 2002, the Gold Star Medal was handed to Mr. Umurdinov in a short and simple ceremony, attended by veterans, officials, and reporters.
"On my arrival , we had a real celebration at
home!" the 3rd son wrote. "According to the custom, the medal was placed into a glass of vodka as we drank. The population of our street, little and grown up, were happy that my father's medal had returned home."
They sent me a video of the celebration, as well as their daughter's wedding, and also Mr. Umurdinov reporting to his father's grave, about the return of his medal. I've now become a part of their family and they have invited me to their home. Perhaps someday I will visit.
In August of this year (2003), I am off to a wedding in Siberia, between an American and a Buryat (ethnic Mongolian) gal, brought together by another Hero Star, which I bought off ebay. I'll have to write about it when I get back.

Editor's Note: The ceremony of the formal return of Umurdinov's hero medal was published in local newspapers, however, it wasn't allowed to be televised. The Uzbek government apparently wanted nothing to do with the old Soviet Union and considers Umurdinov a Hero of the Soviet Union, and not of the current Uzbek government. Ironically, Umurdinov had fought bravely for his country, and was responsible for bringing electricity to his village after the war. He is still thought of as a hero among the citizens there.
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