Stolen military medal found, returned to widow

Stolen military medal found, returned to widow »Play Video
Carol Szimonisz reacts after having the medal awarded to her husband returned to her. At left is a close-up of the medal.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A stolen military medal is now back home with the veteran's widow.

Thieves took a medal awarded to George Szimonisz, along with family pictures and documents, out of a home storage unit two years ago, said Szimonisz's wife, Carol, who lives in Northeast Portland.

On Monday, a couple contacted the KATU Problem Solvers and said they had found the medal, with Szimonisz's name engraved on it, at a storage unit auction. They wanted help finding the family.

The Problem Solvers found Szimonisz's wife and brought the items over to her home this afternoon.

"Thank you so much! That's great!" said Carol Szimonisz. "I never thought I'd see them again."

Some of the pictures showed Szimonisz as a boy in Hungary, where he was born and before he and his family escaped during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.

He came to the United States and entered the U.S. Air Force, said his wife. He received the Akos Szekely medal for "excellence and loyalty" in 1969.

The medal is named after Vietnam veteran Akos Szekely who died in combat, and is awarded to U.S. citizens of Hungarian descent who "were found as deserving the award because of their excellence in spirit, mind and body, and because of their demonstrated loyalty to the United States of America," according to an excerpt of a book, "Fallen Warriors: West Point's Class of 1964," by John Murray, posted on a West Point community website.

"I just can't imagine anyone being so generous as to return them," Carol Szimonisz said, of the medal and pictures. "I can't believe they did that."

Szimonisz's story is deep and painful.

He took his own life in 1976, his wife said. After his death, an autopsy showed he had an egg-sized brain tumor that had been growing for years, but military doctors never discovered it, she said.

"He was afraid. He knew something was wrong," Carol Szimonisz said. "He said, 'I know something is wrong, and I am never going to know what it is.'"

It was a terrible time, and the family, with two young sons, struggled to cope, said Carol Szimonisz.

But she said she is grateful the pictures and medal have been returned to her, especially on this day, Memorial Day.  

"I just cannot believe that people are that wonderful, you know?" said Carol Szimonisz.