Serj Hakobkekhvyan was born on September 29, 2000 in Yerevan, Armenia to Armine Karapetyan and Sergey Kakobqexvyan. He attended 160th school from 2006 to 2015. He was an auto mechanic. His friends lovingly called him Qexo. He left for the army on January 8, 2019. He served in Hadrut, Artsakh. He was a junior sergeant; in August of 2020, he became a sergeant. When the Artsakh War started in 2020, Serj was still serving in Hadrut. He would call his mother daily. His last phone call was on September 30th to his mother, father, uncle and brother. He told his mother that he was fine and everything was fine. He told her to take care of herself. Armine felt that was the last time she would speak to her son. She kept on telling him, “Serj, my child (bales), tsayneet mernem, deghas.” (Serj, my child, let me hear your voice again and again, my son. (Tsayneet mernem is translated literally to let me die on your voice. It’s an Armenian idiom.) On October 1, Serj became a martyr saving his friend’s life. He was awarded the Medal of Valor (Ariootian Medal) posthumously.
Armine is known as the mother who brings coffee to her son’s grave at Yerablur. She visits quite often to be near her firstborn. Karapetyan is a young, bereaved mother who embodies the word resilience, a common trait among many bereaved mothers in the homeland. Their enormous love for their children is evident in every word spoken, every tear shed, every gesture to keep their memory alive.
Karapetyan was only 19 years old when she became a mother. These are her own words about her son.
“The minute I held my beautiful, pristine baby boy, I was in awe. He was the most perfect being I had ever seen. I gave him a big kiss and said I’m always going to be there to kiss him and be the best mom I could be to him. I prayed over him, told him he was born from pure love and asked God to protect him from any harm. Then I gave him to his father. My son was a very caring person and would pick up on others’ emotions. He was an empath even at a very young age. When he was 17 years old, he helped save a family in a terrible accident. Their car had flipped into a ditch. He came home and told me that he had saved a family. I didn’t believe him, and he told me to wait and see. He asked to turn on the news and lo and behold, the news told of a family being saved exactly as he had described and with thanks to Serj. He saved everyone he could. He gave his life to save his friend’s.
Serj was a kind soul. He loved sports and won many medals in track and field. He was a diligent student, but what stood out about Serj was the kindness that he bestowed upon everyone, especially those who needed it the most. There was a girl in his kindergarten class who was mocked for her looks. He would make sure to take gifts for her so she would smile. He had also told everyone that if they weren’t nice to her, they would have to answer to him!
Serj had a girlfriend who loved balloons. He was always surprising her with balloons, roses and stuffed animals. One day, he was taking her balloons when a fight broke out, and all the boys ran over. He also ran over with the balloons and gifts. The boys were asking him, what is this? He just laughed it off and said he had a very important date, but it can wait. How can I help? This was Serj’s nature. Always helpful and giving, expecting nothing in return.
Around New Year and Christmas, Serj would start working so that he could have enough money to buy gifts for his family and friends. Even when he was a student, he would make sure to save money to buy gifts. One year, he noticed that I had commented on a ring on Facebook. I asked how much it was. He saw my comment and went ahead and bought it for me for my 33rd birthday. He bought a cigar for his Dad, but my husband (who doesn’t smoke) said that he would smoke it when Serj got back from the army. The cigar is still sitting there.”
A memory from his cousin Hasmik Aleksanyan
“My Serj was kind, always eager to help, always smiling, and now he is protecting me from heaven. He would call me relentlessly to ask me when he would become an uncle. I would tell him it will happen when you get back from the army. I remember he visited for a few days, and he gave me a cross with a bullet next to it. That is my final memory of him. He was always thinking of others. It’s so sad that the war took Serj from us. My hero Serj and his friends gave their lives so we would be able to exist. Eternal honor to our fallen heroes.”
A memory from his friend Aboul Nersesyan
“I met Serj the first day he joined the ranks. He was very quiet in the beginning and stayed away from everyone. I was the first friend he spoke to. He had a kind heart, was always there for everyone whenever they needed him, very responsible. I can talk endlessly about Serj. One day, we spoke for three and half hours. I was getting ready to be discharged from the army. It was beginning to get late, and I told him that I wished him well, but I had to sleep. He joked, you’re going to sleep again? I told him that in one year’s time, he would be leaving the army. He looked down and said, I will. But he didn’t continue. I think he might have felt that he wouldn’t. He was always talking about his mom. He said wait until I finish my duty in the army, I’m going to make sure my mom lives like a queen. If I had the chance to ever see Serj again, I would say one thing to him. I would thank him for having the opportunity to be his friend.”
Final words from Armine on social media
“No matter how many people offer me their condolences, it doesn’t take away my pain. The loss of a child is the worst pain a soul can feel. No one can understand when you want the warmth of your child’s love, and you’re unable to get it. I look at his clothes and feel my child through the smell on his clothes. No one can understand seeing your child lifeless. No one can understand the last 5,000 dram in his wallet that he didn’t get to spend. You can’t possibly understand what it’s like to search your whole house just to see your child’s smile. You can’t understand what it’s like to raise a child with love and care and lose him. My heart and soul are crushed.”
We have no right to forget. We have to keep the legacies of our martyrs alive. We eternally honor them.