DEARBORN, Mich.—Against the backdrop of a setting sun, Armenians of all ages gathered in Dearborn, Michigan on Monday to remember the martyrs of the Second Artsakh War.
The remembrance was held a year after the launch of Azerbaijan’s unprovoked attacks on Artsakh’s towns and villages which resulted in the loss of an estimated 5,000 Armenian soldiers and civilians.
The memorial service was organized by the ARF Azadamard Gomideh, ANC of Michigan, AYF-YOARF Kopernik Tandourjian Chapter and Homenetmen of Detroit. It was held at the memorial to the fallen heroes of the First Artsakh War located on the campus of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenian Community Center and St. Sarkis Senior Citizens Tower.
“It is a very difficult day for all of us,” said ANC of Michigan chair Dzovinar Hatsakordzian in her opening remarks. “A year ago, our brothers and sisters in Artsakh woke up to a barrage of bombs falling from every direction. For 44 days, Azerbaijan and Turkey, with the help of jihadist mercenaries, attacked Artsakh, abusing and violating every human right with no accountability to anyone while the world was watching silently.”
As Hatsakordzian shared the ANC of Michigan’s recent work to garner support from Michigan’s senators and members of Congress to push for a just resolution for the people of Artsakh, AYF members and Homenetmen Scouts solemnly stood in a line for the duration of the program, each holding the photo of a fallen soldier who had been a member of the ARF Youth Organization of Armenia or Homenetmen.
“This is a somber day,” said ARF Azadamard Gomideh Chair Raffi Ourlian. “Five thousand lives were lost in a 44-day battle. These 5,000 were heroes, and we have to do everything we can in their memory. This community has been directly impacted, and the Detroit community has always stood by Armenia and Artsakh. This is far from over.”
Ahmad Alkaabi represented Congresswoman Debbie Dingell who was unable to leave Washington, D.C. to attend the event. Also in attendance was Michigan State House Rep. Mari Manoogian, who recalled Michigan Senate and House support for the people of Artsakh through a House resolution passed in the wake of the Second Artsakh War and a Senate resolution passed in 2017 recognizing Artsakh’s right to self-determination and independence.
“It’s good to know we have allies standing side by side with us,” said Manoogian. “We gather together to remember our losses, but we also gather to be resilient together as we always have done.”
Hatsakordzian reflected on losses close to home, naming those with a Michigan connection who died defending freedom and security for Artsakh’s people.
“The pain was unbearable when many of our community members lost their loved ones as a result of the Azerbaijani attacks,” said Hatsakordzian. “We remember today Kevork Hadjian who visited Michigan on many occasions and sang at our different events, gracing us with his amazing voice. He was a close friend to many of us here and he is greatly missed.
“The Gulian family lost their relative Garo Hovagimian who was only 20 years old,” Hatsakordzian continued. “He died bravely trying to push back the enemy in Hadrout. The Arslanian family lost their beloved nephew and cousin last year, Sarkis Avetisyan. He died while saving the lives of his wounded friends in the Martuni region.”
Holding a photo of her fallen brother Goruyn Soghomonian, Manoush Movsesyan joined Hatsakordzian at the microphone to share the story of her brother, a hero of the 2016 Four-Day Artsakh War and captain of an Artsakh military special unit in the Second Artsakh War who was promoted to the rank of major the day he died.
“Goruyn was an inspiration not only for his family,” Movsesyan said. “He was also an inspiration for the Armenian nation. Blessed be the memory of Goruyn and all of our heroes.”
Before beginning the memorial service for the fallen soldiers, Rev. Hrant Kevorkian acknowledged the weight of the day and the “hope that Artsakh and all of our lands will be returned to us.”
The following soldiers were remembered during the memorial service: Benyamin Nalbandian, Ardag Darbinian, Gim Katchadrian, Viken Mouradian, Kevork Hadjian, Kegham Mousheghian, Mher Haroutiunian, Kristapor Artin, Arshag Melikian, Ardag Ishkhanian, Hayg Teriglian, Erig Kalsdian, Krikor Ghazarian, Armen Arousdamian, Ardag Mardirosian, Artur Aghasian, Mossik Seklemian, Hagop Astardjian, Harout Panoyan, Garo Hovagimian, Sarkis Avetisyan and Goruyn Soghomonian.
“We will continue our struggle,” he added. “Their blood will not be in vain.”
The program ended with attendees placing a lit candle at the base of the Artsakh memorial and planting a white flag in memory of a fallen soldier on the lawn of St. Sarkis Church facing highly travelled Ford Road where nearly 5,000 flags in memory of the fallen were already fluttering in the light evening breeze.