WASHINGTON (Arizona Republic, Guardian, Washington Post, NYT, US Department of Defense) – Gregory Melikian was one of seven World War II veterans, ages 96 to 100, who joined President Donald Trump at a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II Memorial on Friday, May 8, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic (for a video, go here). The ceremony took place only a day after a personal valet to the president was reported to be infected with COVID-19. On that same Friday, it was also disclosed that Katie Miller, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, also tested positive for the virus.
The 96-year-old Melikian was selected in 1945 while in Reims, France, by General Dwight Eisenhower as the youngest of three radio operators to send the coded message announcing Germany’s unconditional surrenders. Melikian said that Eisenhower declared, “I want Melikian to send this coded message and talk about it for the rest of his life.”
To see a video of Melikian describing “how I ended World war II,” go to https://vimeo.com/416500845.
Melikian was flown on May 7 in a empty plane, wearing a mask and protective clothing, from Phoenix, Arizona where he lives to Washington with the help of the Greatest Generation Foundation, a veterans’ charity.
His wife, Emma Melikian, 87, of Phoenix, told the Arizona Republic on May 8 that it was very important to her husband that he attend the commemoration, “virus or no virus.”
Granddaughter Alex Melikian, on the other hand, declared to the New York Times, “I think it’s very irresponsible to have the last remaining World War II veterans travel across the country to take a photograph during a global pandemic.” Worried about her grandfather, and also her grandmother when the latter returns home, she added: “People over the age of 80 have the highest chance of passing away from this. If he gets it, this could be the end…I know it’s his choice to go, but it’s irresponsible to even have an event like this in the first place.”