SAN FRANCISCO—Members of the Bay Area Armenian community gathered at the home of Dr. Shahe and. Ani Yeni-Komshian, on April 23.
They visited the long standing supporters of the American University of Armenia, to learn about the “Honoring Those Who Served: Investing in Our Veterans’ Education” campaign.
Launched in April 2019, the campaign aims to raise $1.5 million in endowed scholarships to support veterans of the Armenian Armed Forces who continue their education at the University after completing their two-year mandatory military service.
Each year, AUA welcomes close to 40 veterans on campus with open arms. Upon return from service these young men do not receive targeted support services and professional attention in order to successfully transition to civilian and academic life.
In addition to building the scholarship endowment fund to support their education, AUA aims to fill the critical need for establishing a Veterans’ Affairs Office on campus, which would provide veteran students with a wide range of social and psychological services. AUA will be the first university among Armenia’s higher education institutions to provide an institutionalized support network to veterans.
The hosts of the event welcomed the guests and underscored the significance and magnitude of the new AUA initiative. “We are honored to host this event as its purpose speaks to our heart,” said Dr. Yenikomshian. “Armenia’s veterans risk their lives to guarantee the safety and security, and in doing so, the future of Armenia. The least we can do is support the veterans who have served selflessly to help guarantee their future.”
“During the April 2016 Four-Day-War that brought conflict back to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a number of the young men protecting Armenian lands were students of AUA, who were serving their time in the military,” said Gaiane Khachatrian, AUA Director of Development.
“While they survived, their traumatic experiences stayed with them after they served their country. As a gesture of gratitude, AUA is committed to providing full scholarships to all its veterans in recognition of their sacrifices. The University serves as a second home where veterans can find appreciation, peace, love, and support,” she continued.
Arman Vardanyan, the recipient of the AGBU Asbeds Scholarship (2017-2018) and the Mario Mazzola & Luciana Cavallet Endowed Scholarship (2018-2019), majoring in English and Communications, was among those brave soldiers serving in the army when the Four-Day-War erupted in April of 2016. He was present at this official launch of the campaign and moved the audience with his emotional speech, which can be found below:
“There was a call of duty and I had to pause my educational journey at AUA to serve in the army for two years. My time in the Armenian military gave me the strongest respect for everyone who wears the uniform. I am proud to be a part of the generation of soldiers who participated in the April Four-Day-War of 2016 in Nagorno Karabakh, and I bow down to all the heroes who sacrificed their lives to protect Armenia and shed their own blood to secure our borders.
Recalling the events that unfolded during the April Four-Day-War brings out the emotions, stories, and the voices that should be heard. I can testify that participating in this War was an honor, huge responsibility, and an expression of my dedication to my country. This is where I had to turn into action my love, skills, courage, determination and resilience. Serving my country has made me a better person —a better person in my family, community and country. It has increased my confidence, self-discipline, teamwork, loyalty, and the ability to realize my full potential.
AUA gave me and all its veterans the most heartwarming and caring welcome back. It is beyond description what it really meant for us to feel appreciated and taken care of after returning from service. AUA has always held and expressed love, care and attention to all students from many different backgrounds.
Serving for two years in the military does not end my responsibility for my homeland and vision for Armenia. My goals and aspirations of becoming a diplomat have helped me to seek out opportunities where I can gain the knowledge and skills needed to make a significant impact in Armenia.
I dream of an Armenian military where soldiers are given undivided attention and can get 100% support from their officers and have all the components necessary for a successful and safe military service. I dream of the Armenia where we take pride in our president, our politicians, our police and our country. I dream of the Armenia where people earn their living and respect their positions. I dream of the Armenia where wealth has value but is not above ethical values, honor or personal integrity.
A new type of conversation has begun in Armenia, a positive and optimistic conversation that places family unit, education, integrity, responsibility, and dedication first. Today’s Armenia is on the path of unfolding its indubitable impact and worth to the world.”
There are many young brave men like Arman Vardanyan in Armenia who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces of the country, risking their lives to keep the homeland secure. Although Arman survived the war and served his country with dignity and honor, a number of his friends fell.
While the soldiers are serving Armenia, it is up to us in the Diaspora to continue to support the homeland in our own ways, such as helping to build a better future for the veterans upon their return. Their service to country is wholeheartedly appreciated by AUA students, faculty and staff who understand the significance of the contribution they’ve made and stand in full support. Today, we celebrate the safe return of our veteran students and invite you to join hands with us in building a better future for them in a ‘new Armenia’ where daily progress is the best reward of our commitment.
To learn more about the AUA “Honoring Those Who Served: Investing in our Veterans’ Education” campaign, please visit veterans.aua.am. You have the power to build Armenia’s promising future through your participation in this campaign!