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Honoring Those Who Served: AUA Veteran Student Connects Across Generations

 At only 23 years old, Arman Vardanyan is a courageous Artsakh War Veteran, extraordinary student of the American University of Armenia (AUA), and the unofficial spokesperson for AUA’s new campaign Honoring Those Who Served: Investing in our Veterans Education, which aims to establish a $1.5 million scholarship endowment fund to provide Veteran students tuition support.

Arman was fortunate enough to be visiting the United States in mid-April, as he was selected to participate in the annual Global Engagement Summit at Northwestern University, proudly representing Armenia and sharing his vision to establish comprehensive Veteran care in the country. After the Summit, Arman visited the Armenian communities across California, and met with the AUA supporters who made his education at the University possible.

 Arman at Mt. DavidsonArman began his California tour in the Bay Area, where Mr. & Mrs. Shahe and Ani Yeni-Komshian hosted an event to kick off the new campaign and raise funds towards this important initiative. The following day, the Armenian community gathered at the Mt. Davidson Cross on the evening of April 24 to commemorate the 104th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The event was attended by hundreds of community members, leaders, and elected officials, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Arman delivered the youth message to the audience. He gave a powerful message to an emotional and tearful audience as he recalled his days serving in the Armenian Armed Forces during the Four-Day War. “I thought to myself, if I am going to die, then let it be for my homeland, for the security of our Armenian and my people.” His message received a standing ovation and he was welcomed into the community with open arms.

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Following the events in the Bay Area, Arman traveled  to Southern California. On April 27, members of the  AGBU Young Professionals Los Angeles chapter eagerly   gathered at the Vatche & Tamar Manoukian Performing   Arts Center to attend their second ever Speaker Series   to hear Arman’s story. Arman recalled the day he   received an acceptance letter to his dream school,   AUA, but only a few weeks later, he received his call   of  duty to serve his compulsory 2-year military   service. He shared his difficulties during the Four-Day   War and the challenges he faced returning to life after service.

The open Q&A demonstrated that many of the young audience members were unaware of the intricacies of military service in Armenia, and the scarce aid Veterans receive after their service. One final question from the captivated audience was asked, “What can we do to help?” Arman not only asked the audience to support AUA’s Veteran scholarship endowment fund, but stated, “Words are powerful. They can destroy, but they can also give life. Express your gratitude to our Veterans and know that it gives them the strength and honor to continue fighting and to be the gatekeepers of our homeland.” It was with that final question that guests were then invited to create a canvas of painted palms and to write words of gratitude to our fallen heroes.

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Later that evening, Arman was most honored to attend a meet and greet hosted by the AGBU Asbeds, who supported him through a scholarship in 2017-2018. AGBU Asbeds Chairman, Harry Sinanian, opened the event by highlighting the shared history and partnership, as “the AGBU Asbeds and AUA both have a strong aligned mission to educate and inspire Armenians to become future leaders of the country, and to continue the proud heritage of our people.”

Arman was very thankful to be able to meet his sponsors face-to-face and express his extreme gratitude to the Asbeds for giving him the opportunity to receive the best education possible with their gracious financial support.

Dr. Haroutune Armenian, an AUA Trustee and President Emeritus, gave closing remarks that emphasized the pivotal role that AGBU played in founding AUA, along with the University of California and the Republic of Armenia. He highlighted the importance of supporting young Veterans, explaining that Armenia has much to learn from America’s transformative G.I. Bill, which helped nearly 7 million Veterans pay for their education, leading to the country’s major economic success in the years to follow. We must not allow young Veterans to come back from their military service disillusioned and unmotivated. They must be supported and empowered to produce change through top-level education at AUA.

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Arman ended his trip on April 29, with a visit to Ararat Home Mission Hills for a meet and greet with the Assisted Living residents. The residents had excitedly gathered at the meeting hall to hear Arman’s story, which was met with applause and hugs from some attendees.

 One of the residents, Mr. Hagop Tigran Melkonian, was incredibly moved by Arman’s story. He gave Arman a hug and a special gift of the ring that he had worn for years with the emblem of the Dashnak party. He gave it to Arman not only as a symbol of his gratitude for protecting the homeland, but hoped the ring would keep Arman safe and strong. Closing in the event, Ararat Home presented Arman or as they called him, “the future President of Armenia,” with a gift of a beautiful Ararat pen as a thank you, hoping that one day Arman will sign legislation into effect that will not only better the country, but bring peace to the region.

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