One day a little more than 20 years ago, Everett Marabian of Warwick, Rhode Island, was driving through the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter, Rhode Island, to visit the Korean War Veterans memorial. “I noticed monuments dedicated to Italian American veterans and Jewish American veterans and thought to myself that Armenian veterans should have one, too,” he told the Weekly.
Marabian put the wheels in motion, eliciting the support of the Armenian churches in the state, and many individual donors. He also researched potential locations for the monument in the cemetery and discovered that there was an open space right next to the Greek American Veterans monument.
Once the proper spot was found, Marabian engaged his first cousin Vartkes Kaprielian, a well-known local advertising executive and artist, to design the monument. “I wanted a nice design, and he thought Mount Ararat would be a good symbol for Armenian Americans. I also insisted on including Armenian crosses on the top left and right corners,” Marabian said. The inscription on the monument reads: “In honor of all Armenians who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.”
Marabian noted that while the monument and design were beautiful, he also wanted the location to be spectacular, so he commissioned two stone benches to adorn the plot. One is inscribed, “God Bless America,” and the other, “In God We Trust,” as a symbol of Armenians’ Christian faith.
The Armenian American Veterans monument was dedicated and blessed on May 4, 2002. Following the dedication, supporter and fellow veteran Ramon Zorabedian became “the architect of the annual service that is held at the monument,” committee member LTC. Robert Harootunian said.
Over the years, the Armenian Veterans Memorial committee has honored many notable community members at the annual Veterans Day commemoration, including monument designer and World War II veteran Vartkes Kaprielian, his son Vietnam veteran Michael Manoog Kaprielian, World War II veteran Souren Mouradjian, whose daughter Joanne now sings the national anthem at the service, and the most decorated serviceman from Rhode Island and World War II marine Harry Kizirian.
This year’s annual remembrance was held as it always is, on Veterans Day, November 11. The program included the Providence Homenetmen Scouts presenting the colors, Joanne Mouradjian singing the national anthem, all in attendance reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the R.I. National Guard serving as honor guards. Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church pastor Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian officiated the prayer service, assisted by Archdeacon Hagop Khatchadourian of Sts. Vartanantz Church and Deacon Alex Calikyan of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church. This year’s honoree was Ramon Zorabedian, the man who spearheaded the yearly service.
Born in 1936, Zorabedian immigrated to the United States in 1955, and his parents, both orphans of the Armenian Genocide, joined him in 1958. In 1959, he was drafted into the Army, serving at Fort Dix. He narrowly missed going to Vietnam and entering Officer Candidate School due to his need for an income to support his parents and brother, ultimately being discharged for “hardship” reasons.
Following his discharge from the Army, Zorabedian served as a reservist for several years in the 1960s while working in the jewelry industry in Providence. He met his wife Sonia in 1969, and they were married in 1970, followed by the birth of their daughters, Tanya Garrian and Tara Zorian.
“We are very grateful and proud of our father’s military service to this country and have immense respect for the opportunities it afforded him and his family,” Tanya and Tara wrote to the Weekly. Unfortunately, due to illness, Zorabedian was unable to attend the service at the Armenian American Veterans monument. His daughters gratefully accepted the honor on his behalf, bringing a beautiful portrait of their father. “We deeply appreciate his recognition while applauding him in sharing his commitment and unwavering desire to uphold the creation and maintenance of the Armenian Veterans Memorial,” they said.