ORANGE COUNTY–The Armenian National Committee of Orange County hosted its first annual Walk for Remembrance in honor of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide on April 22. The event was organized in collaboration with Saint Mary Armenian Apostolic Church and Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church. We would like to especially thank the Armenian Youth Federation, the ARF Badanees, the Armenian Church Youth Organization, Homenetmen, the Armenian Relief Societys Sevan & Karni Chapters, the Forty Martyrs Board of Trustees, the Saint Mary Parish Council, the Saint Mary Ladies Society, the Forty Martyrs Ladies Auxiliary, Hamazkayin and all of the participating organizations without whom the walk would never have become a reality, said Lucy Der Yeghiaian, Chairwoman of the ANC OC. More than 20 organizations from Orange County participated in raising funds and awareness for Armenian Genocide Education. The proceeds from the walk will be used to support the efforts of the ANCA in Washington, to purchase materials for the public school systems in Orange County on the Armenian Genocide and to support the community efforts of all 20 participating organizations. The walk began at Saint Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in Costa Mesa, CA. Father Moushegh Tashjian and Father Hrant Yeretzian performed a joint Badarak joining together the parishes of both Saint Mary & Forty Martyrs Armenian Churches. It was the first step in a day filled with unity among all members of Orange Countys Armenian Community. The more than 300 participants in the Walk for Remembrance joined together in prayer prior to beginning their journey. The eight-mile walk then proceeded down 22nd Street to Harbor Boulevard where it turned north toward Forty Martyrs Armenian Church. The line of marchers stretched for over half a mile along Harbor Boulevard carrying banners with the Walk for Remembrance logo and Remember the Armenian Genocide. ANC OC Police Liaison and Executive Board Member Chris Guldjian had arranged for police escorts by the Costa Mesa Police Department along the busiest parts of Harbor Boulevard to ensure the safety of all who participated. Chris, along with group leaders Garo Kelejian & Tro Tutunjian worked with their monitors to keep all participants safe and organized. Der Yeghiayan and ANC OC Executive Board Member Nairy Cherchian worked with the members of the Churches Ladies auxiliaries and the ARS Sevan Chapter to provide food, water and refreshmen’s at both Saint Mary Armenian Church prior to departure and for the 500 people who attended the program and at Forty Martyrs church upon arrival. In a strong symbol of unity the marchers were met by more members of the Armenian Community at Mile Square Park on Euclid Street. The group included young students from the Ari Guiragos Armenian School and elderly members of Orange Countys Armenian Community determined to support the marchers along the Last Mile. In a heartwarming scene the Last Mile was led by Father Moushegh Tashjian and Father Hrant Yeretzian into the Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church, with the Armenian and American flags waving behind them and over 300 supporters marching in stride to honor the memories of those 1.5 million victims lost during the genocide. The marchers met with tremendous applause upon their arrival at Forty Martyrs. More than 200 people had shown up to show their support for the more than 300 who had made the 8-mile journey. The program was led by ANC OC Executive Board member Ara Malazian who thanked all who made the historic 8-mile walk. Special thanks went out to the parish priests and leadership of both Churches for their efforts to unite the community for this event. Father Moushegh Tashjian spoke on behalf of the Armenian Apostolic Church. In his speech he emphasized how the Armenian Genocide has touched the lives of every Armenian and about the importance of honoring our heritage and our culture. Meline Merjian read a stirring poem written by Tamar Kesoyan about the strength of an Armenian woman and her determination to free Artshakh for future generations. ARF Orange County Badanegan Aghpiur Serop Chapter Executive Member Nora Gourdikian read a tremendous speech that included a posthumous letter to Hrant Dink. In the letter she asked Hrant Dink to embrace those who had been sacrificed before him and to let them know that they had not been forgotten and that the fight for justice continues. Saint Marys ACYO representative Aret Aranian thanked all who participated in the Walk for Remembrance and expressed his desire to see this be the first of many community-wide events that would bring the Orange County community closer together. Speaking on behalf of the ANC OC, Carin Sarkissian addressed those gathered in Armenian and English. In her moving speech, Carin talked about how those who marched into the deserts of Der Zor 92 years ago did so not by choice, yet they did so united just as the volunteers had done during the Walk for Remembrance. She reminded all of those present that there is strength through cooperation. The Mayor of the City of Brea, Marty Simonoff, addressed the crowd about the importance of cooperation and participation on both the political and activist level for the coming generation. Keynote speaker Raffi Hamparian from the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region Board gave a powerful speech about the challenges we are facing today. He talked about how a small group of Turks had gathered at the White House to deny the Armenian Genocide and had shirts printed that mocked Armenia & all Armenia’s. Hamparian talked about the importance of the current Armenian Genocide resolution, House Resolution 106. In addressing the absurdity of Turkish government efforts to open a debate on the Armenian Genocide, Hamparian noted that the Cancer Society does not debate with the tobacco industry as to whether or not smoking causes cancer; the Jewish Community doesnt sit down with Neo-Nazis to discuss the Holocaust, and that the Armenian Genocide is not a topic for debate, it is historic fact. The program concluded with a Hokehankist performed by Father Moushegh Tashjian and Father Hrant Yeretzian in honor of the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide. As the marchers began boarding the shuttles back to St. Mary Armenian Church, the remaining attendees joined together to sing the Armenian National Anthem Mer Hayrenik as the sun set and a light rain began to fall.