GLENDALE, CA — The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) has announced that it will honor several Armenian American U.S. military veterans at the 2011 ANCA-WR Annual Banquet, which will take place on Saturday, November 26 at the Universal Sheraton Hotel.
“Every year, Americans mark Veterans’ Day to honor our military servicemen and servicewomen. It is of special significance to honor them this year, on the tenth anniversary of September 11, in recognition of the many sacrifices they have made throughout their service in the U.S. military,” said ANCA-WR Board chairman Andrew Kzirian.
Among the veterans being honored are Marine Sergeant Hovig Margossian; Army Private First Class Karo Krtikashyan; Marine Corporal Kevork Khachadurian; Army Sergeant John Merguerian; Army Captain Raffi Yeremian; Marine Lance Corporal Jimmy Abbamontian; and Pharmacist Mate First Class Nikki Smith for their selfless and honorable service in the U.S. military. They join Army Captain Adrineh Shahijanian Gouloomian and Marine Staff Sergeant Baleny Minas as part of the group of honorees who have been chosen to be representatives of the thousands of Armenian Americans who have nobly served in the U.S. military throughout the history of the United States.
As old and new immigrants to this country, the Armenian American community has continued to take an active role in American society is proud to take an active role in American society and to serve the United States, and part of this contribution is personified through the sacrifices of our military veterans.
Born Satenik Gondjian, Pharmacist Mate First Class Nikki Smith served during World War II, and is one of the few survivors of that era. A native Californian, she was born in Fresno in 1919 and moved to Los Angeles with her family in 1924. When the war started, Smith was working at the Biltmore Hotel. She passed the ubiquitous Uncle Sam sign during her lunch hour, and immediately heeded his call to join the military by enlisting at the nearby recruiting center. She received her training at Hunter College in New York, and further training in the pharmacy field at Bethesda Hospital in Maryland. She served during the war at the San Diego Naval Station. When Women in Service for the Military (WIMSA) was formed, Smith became a charter member and took an active part in attending a groundbreaking ceremony for the women’s memorial in Arlington Virginia. She has remained active in that association, and was appointed by Brigadier General Velma Vaught to become the California State representative for WIMSA tasked with the responsibility to locate female veterans to include in the memorial.
She is also a Charter Member of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Los Angeles Musa Dagh Chapter. Smith was inducted by General Karekin Njdeh as a “tzeghagron” when she was 13 years old. She was very active in the AYF as a teenager, and was the sports editor of the Hairenik Weekly.
As a civilian, she worked for United Airlines in revenue accounting until her retirement. She volunteers at the Ararat Home of Los Angeles. Now almost 92, she makes her home in Encino, with her husband Richard Smith. They have two children, Susan and Bruce, and two grandchildren Megan and Matt.
Marine Corporal Kevork Khachadurian enlisted on November 13, 2007 and was first stationed in Norfolk, Va., before transferring to Camp Pendleton. On March 21, 2011 he was deployed to Afghanistan where he served until August 15.
He and another soldier were responsible for navigating safe routes using maps and metal detectors to identify IEDs and mark the safe routes using shaving cream. One night as they were at the end of their route, Khachadurian stepped on an IED causing it to detonate. He recalled being conscious throughout the ordeal, and realizing that he had lost both of his legs and several of his fingers were only barely on his hands. His credits his fellow Marines with saving his life by stanching the blood loss and trying to keep him awake. He was evacuated to a hospital in Afghanistan, from where he was transferred to Germany, and then to Bethesda Hospital in Maryland where he is still recuperating. He has already received his prosthetic legs, and is receiving physical therapy. He walked unassisted and without crutches or support for the first time on October 28.
Khachadurian is still active in the Marine Corps, and wants to finish his service helping other soldiers who have been seriously injured. He is studying Criminal Investigation at Central Texas College, and taking classes through tutors.
Marine Sergeant Hovig Margossian enlisted in 2000, and served until the end of 2009. Stationed in Camp Pendleton, Margossian was in Helicopter Marline Light Attack Unit 775 where he served as a helicopter air crew chief and mechanic. His first tour in Iraq was in 2004, and he returned there in 2005. Margossian provided ground support and served as an equipment manager for Bell AH-1 SuperCobra Helicopters and Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, known in military parlance as Hueys. His helicopter squadron provided close air support for the infantry units doing missions in Fallujah and Ramadi. They also did route reconnaissance, convoy escorts, and Medical Evacuation escorts. They came under mortar attack at their base, but Margossian was not involved in heavy fire.
After his second tour in Iraq, he returned to Camp Pendleton where he remained on active duty until 2008. He then transferred to Miramar until 2009. Margossian received two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and two Iraqi Campaign Medals, among a number of other honors. Now a civilian, he is a full-time student at Los Angeles City College studying business and journalism, and he owns a bicycle company. He is the son of Harout and Vania Margossian.
Army Private First Class Karo Krtikashyan was born in Yerevan and moved to the United States when he was 11 years old. He enlisted in the Army in the wake of the September 11 attacks, as a way to serve the country and defray the costs of his college education. He served as a machine gunner in an infantry squadron from 2002 to 2004, in the Army 82nd Airborne whose main objective was field seizures. In 2003, Krtikashyan went to Iraq, and was in heavy combat in Fallujah for 7 months. His squadron was embedded with the 7th Special Forces Battalion. Two journalists were also embedded with the squadron, and the film “Occupation Dreamland” was released about their experiences. Now a civilian, Krtikashyan works as a real estate appraiser for Wells Fargo. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics, and is currently working on a master’s degree in Public Service at Cappella University. He has been married to his wife Stephanie for almost 13 years, and they have a 7-year-old daughter, and 5-year-old son.
Sergeant John Merguerian has been enlisted in the Army since March of 1997. His first tour overseas was in Iraq, from the beginning of the invasion in March 2003 to April 2004. As a civil affairs specialist and translator, his job was to “win the hearts and minds of the people,” using both his Arabic and Armenian language skills. He was also in Iraq during the troop surge from 2007 to 2008, when he taught classes to the Iraqi army. He was in the 4th Infantry Division that captured Saddam Hussein. Merguerian received his undergraduate education in Arabic, and Political Science of the Middle East. As part of his studies, he went abroad to Egypt where he spent one year at the American University in Cairo. Since 2008, he has been in the Army Reserves, and works for Pacific Protection Security.
Marine Lance Corporal Jimmy Abbamontian joined the Marine Corps Reserves in March 2003, while attending classes to receive his teaching credential from California State University, Northridge. After several weeks of training at Camp Pendleton, he flew into Iraq with the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. He was a scout in the infantry, with the Headquarters and Supply company, whose specialty was setting up command posts with the officers behind the front lines and also supplying the front line fighters with any supplies they needed. His platoon, LAV (Light Armored Vehicle), also had its share of front line duties as well. They would accompany officers to Iraqi Police Stations, sheik’s homes, power plants, check points, and anywhere else they could be of service to the Iraqi people to help rebuild their country. Their main duty was to provide security for officers and vehicles.
After his return, he married his wife Ramela, and completed his education. He taught at St. Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena, and is now a middle school English teacher at the AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in Canoga Park. The couple makes their home in Porter Ranch, and have three young daughters.
Army Captain Raffi Yeremian graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1999, and served in the Army from 1999 to 2005. He was deployed to Iraq in 2004 during the second Operation Iraqi Freedom. He currently resides in Burbank with his wife Arpineh, and their newborn daughter.
Tickets for the Annual Banquet are $200. Students with valid ID can purchase discounted tickets for $150.
This year, the Annual Banquet will be flanked by the ANC Grassroots conference. Due to a generous contribution by an anonymous donor the ANC has announced a significant reduction in ticket prices.
Tickets for ANC Grassroots, which includes the Friday night cocktail in the Starview Room; as well as conference sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which include breakfast, post-banquet dance, and the keynote luncheon on Sunday, are $49. Students with valid ID can purchase discounted tickets for $39.
For more information, to register and purchase tickets, please visitwww.anca.org/ancwrbanquet.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANC-WR works to promote understanding regarding issues of concern to the Armenian American community.