Adam’s Funeral: Loved Ones, Strangers Say Farewell to Fallen Soldier

Special for the Armenian Weekly

19-year-old Adam’s coffin was closed; it couldn’t be kept open—not this time… There is a tradition in Armenia of keeping the coffins of the deceased open—for loved ones to hold the dead one last time.

“When Adam was buried, and the funeral service was over, I approached his brother. He was tightly holding Adam’s photo, weeping. His eyes were fixated on his brother’s grave. I expressed my condolences and hugged him. He hugged me back. ‘Stay strong,’ I said. His wet eyes stared back at me. ‘I’m a soldier, too,’ he said. I was speechless,” recounted Ara Keuhnelian, a Diasporan Armenian who resides in Egypt.

'19-year-old Adam’s coffin was closed; it couldn’t be kept open—not this time.' (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)
’19-year-old Adam’s coffin was closed; it couldn’t be kept open—not this time.’ (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)

Keuhnelian was on a short trip to Armenia when the recent developments in the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR/Artsakh) jolted the country. Keuhnelian and hundreds of others who never knew Adam still found themselves at the funeral of the young serviceman on April 12.

'When Adam was buried, and the funeral service was over, I approached his brother. He was tightly holding Adam’s photo, weeping.' (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)
‘When Adam was buried, and the funeral service was over, I approached his brother. He was tightly holding Adam’s photo, weeping.’ (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)

Photographs of Adam had quickly spread on social media—he was one of the missing servicemen following Azerbaijan’s attacks on the NKR Line of Contact (LoC) on April 2-5. There was still hope that Adam would be found alive. However, the day that Armenia’s Ministry of Defense announced the return of the bodies of 18 martyred soldiers was the day news spread that Adam had been killed.

Following the exchange of bodies between Artsakh and Azerbaijan on April 10, the NKR State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages, and Missing Persons registered that all of the bodies of the deceased servicemen transferred by Azerbaijan had visible signs of torture and mutilation.

'Keuhnelian and hundreds of others who never knew Adam still found themselves at the funeral of the young serviceman on April 12.' (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)
‘Keuhnelian and hundreds of others who never knew Adam still found themselves at the funeral of the young serviceman on April 12.’ (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)

Adam Sahagian was born on Aug. 19, 1996, in Yerevan. He attended Yerevan’s school number 14. He was then accepted and enrolled in Yerevan State University’s Faculty of Architecture.

“The future architect left his studies during his second year [at the university] and joined the Armenian Army to defend Artsakh’s southeast borders. The lively and enthusiastic Adam, with his strong body, captured the attention of his commanders from the day he joined the army,” said a Defense Ministry spokesperson in a speech on the day of Adam’s funeral. Sahagian had enrolled in a course that would allow him to become a troop commander, added the spokesperson.

Adam Sahagian was born on Aug. 19, 1996, in Yerevan. (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)
Adam Sahagian was born on Aug. 19, 1996, in Yerevan. (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)

“The mission to defend the borders of the homeland was sacred to Adam. On the evening of April 1, the enemy started large-scale military operations. When the enemy savagely attacked our lands, they had to be stopped by any means,” said the spokesperson. “Those young 18- to 20-year-old soldiers fought with a special will—until they shed their last drop of blood; until they were martyred․ Dear Adam, we are grateful for your selfless and heroic actions… We will always remember this tragic loss. We are in deep pain, yet so proud of you.”

'Dear Adam, we are grateful for your selfless and heroic actions… We will always remember this tragic loss. We are in deep pain, yet so proud of you.' (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)
‘Dear Adam, we are grateful for your selfless and heroic actions… We will always remember this tragic loss. We are in deep pain, yet so proud of you.’ (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)

Around 80 Armenian soldiers and volunteer servicemen gave their lives, and 250-300 servicemen were wounded, in the past 10 days. Thousands took to the streets of Yerevan on April 10 to pay their respects to their fellow Armenians killed in the attacks. A silent candlelit march started at Shahumian Square and reached Yerablur, the military cemetery located at the top of a hill in the outskirts of Yerevan. Since 1988, the cemetery has become the burial place for those who have given their lives during the Artsakh War.

Among the heroes buried at Yerablur are Monte Melkonian, Shahen Meghrian, Mher Choulhajian, Vicken Zakarian, Vazken Sargsyan, Antranig Ozanian (died in 1927, reburied in 2000), and Sose (Mayrig) Vartanian (died in 1952, reburied in 1998).

Since 1988, the cemetery has become the burial place for those who have given their lives during the Artsakh war. (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)
Since 1988, the cemetery has become the burial place for those who have given their lives in the Artsakh War. (Photo: Ara Keuhnelian)

Yerablur is one of the “must visit” places in the motherland. It is not a joyful place, yet it is one of the most emotional and peaceful sites in the capital, with an impressive view of Mount Ararat—the mountain that still remains outside Armenia’s borders, yet watches over the fallen Armenian soldiers. If one has any doubt as to how the Armenian nation has survived until today, they may find their answer there, at the cemetery.

Each time Defense Ministry spokesperson Ardzrun Hovhannissian announces the names and publishes the photographs of fallen soldiers during the battles in the Karabagh-Azerbaijan conflict, he adds this note: “We mourn but we are proud.” It is a sentiment that is echoed in Artsakh, Armenia, and the far corners of the Armenian Diaspora.

 

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Nora Keuhnelian

Nora (Koloyan) Keuhnelian is a journalist who works for Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper, Egypt's premier English-language publication published by the Middle East's renowned Al-Ahram Press Organization. She typically reports on Armenian-related issues for Al-Ahram. Keuhnelian also works for the Housaper Armenian daily—the publication of ARF Egypt—and currently contributes to the Armenian Weekly from Egypt. She received her B.A. from the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management at Helwan University in 1993, after earning her high school English education system diploma, the GCE. Keuhnelian lives in Cairo, attended the Kalousdian Armenian School, and is an active member of the Armenian community in Egypt, including its “Arax” choir group. Her role model has long been her mother, an educator who taught generations in Egypt the Armenian language, history, and religion, and who influenced much of her sense of belonging. She is married and has two sons, Ashod and Mher. Nora Keuhnelian can be reached at norako@yahoo.com. Twitter @norakoloyan.

11 Comments

  1. God bless and keep our heroic soldiers safe and may the Holy Spirit comfort the families of the martyrs who give their lives for the protection of our homeland.

  2. These young Armenian warriors defending the Republic of Artsakh, are truly the best. Such enormous bravery and perseverance they possess, and so eager are they to sacrifice their lives for the defense of their beloved Hayrenik.

    As for the two-legged hyena leader of Azerbaijan (Sultan Aliyev), let him be fully aware that regardless of the billions of dollars worth of military arms he purchases, regardless of the shockingly evil acts committed by his soldiers against both Armenian soldiers and civilians, and regardless of the international community’s cruel indifference and insensitivity to his campaign of brutal terrorism against Armenia and Artsakh, he will never obtain the tiniest piece of Artsakh’s land. Hyena Aliyev is failing in his mission to break the spirit and morale of our brothers and sisters in Hayastan/Artsakh, and he’s failing miserably. Hey folks, just take a look at how much more determined the NKR defense army has become since the Azerbaijani failed invasion earlier this month. In fact, just take a look at all those young Armenian brothers in the homeland, who are so enthusiastic to join the NKR defense army and defend Artsakh.

    Returning back to the subject of Hyena Aliyev, if he desires our Artsakh so badly, then why doesn’t he join his soldiers on the field in an attempt to conquer it? Let’s see him try once to put his feet on the soil of Artsakh and plant his flag on that soil. And then, we will all observe how he ends up taking a bath in his own blood.

  3. Our Martyrs,
    Our Brave Martyrs
    You Are In Our Hearts

    You are in our hearts …
    Not in the sky …
    Not in the graves…
    In our hearts only…

    We have big hearts
    We can have you all
    Without lament…s
    You are our brave sons …

    Your children will be braver than you.
    Who dies for his honest principles
    Will never sigh
    Will breathe love always…

    Dr. Sylva Portoian
    April 6, 2016
    Written instantly

  4. Not even one Armenian soldier should have been lost to the nation. Let alone have to witness their mutilated bodies by barbarians.

    Armenians need to hold their leaders accountable because, helplessly and hopefully, they have depended on other government(s).

    To re-learn to depend on their own will be a challenge. However, publicly penalizing those who reap the benefits of national disasters, or ignoring their responsibilities, will need to be the norm.

  5. God bless you Adam and our armed forces. Our Armenian nation is small in number and every Armenian is very precious. We can not afford to lose any of our people and every effort should be made in protecting our soldiers. We need to re-think our strategy and tactics and not sacrifice our beloved children. There must be other ways of protecting ourselves besides having martyrs and heros. Need to fight a tactical war with more technology and less sacrifice, better warning systems and less martyrs. I am sure we have the military expertise within our compatriots both in the homeland and diaspora.

  6. For all getting married soon, and their families:

    Give wedding guests the option of donating to one of many charities helping the families and soldiers in addition to standard gifts. Here is a sample of a card to include w the invitation:

    “If you wish, please donate for Armenian Soldiers killed and injured in
    Artsakh through tax deductible donations to:

    Support Our Heroes Fund
    The Paros Foundation
    918 Parker Street, Suite A14
    Berkeley, CA 94710
    http://www.parosfoundation.org

    You don’t really need three Crate and Barrel Gravy Boats

  7. Bravo to jda. It is our responsibility in the comfort we are blessed with to come to aid of our brethren in Artsakh and Armenia. When we claim to be proud of our heritage, it must manifest itself into some tangible…. Other wise it becomes rhetoric. There obviously many ways to express our commitment, but Artsakh is a current reality. It is the only example of Armenians regaining part of our historic lands after decades of forced ceding. This is not simple charity. It is an investment in the future of our people on historic soil. It is an incredibly beautiful place( go if you haven’t yet) with impressive people. STAND WITH ARTSAKH!

  8. Karabakhi Armenian soldier Marat Petrosyan destroyed five Azeri tanks and an IFV during the second Nagorno-Karabakh war. This lad absolutely qualifies for a National Hero medal.

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