Senior Lieutenant Gevorg Arshakyan

Remembering Senior Lieutenant Gevorg Arshakyan: Friend, Patriot, Hero


By Cristopher Gor Patvakanian

When I was a junior in high school, I wrote an essay about Philip Zane Darch, the first soldier from my hometown, Watertown, MA, to die in World War II. Darch was just 18 years old when he lost his life defending the United States in Pearl Harbor, and his bravery, sacrifice, and patriotism was an inspiration to me for the rest of my life. He was someone who answered the call to action, and was willing to die for his family and country to be protected and safe. In short, he was a hero. Years later, I guess it was fate that I’d meet another hero like Darch thousands of miles away, in Yerevan, Armenia, during the summer of 2018. And that hero was Senior Lieutenant Gevorg Arshakyan.

I had the honor of meeting Gev, short for Gevorg, before he became Senior Lieutenant Arshakyan, when we were both volunteering at the Aurora Prize for Humanity. Aurora Prize is a humanitarian organization recognizing individuals for humanitarian work, and gives awards on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. The bar for becoming a volunteer with Aurora Prize is honestly quite high, and looking back, it’s not a surprise I met Gevorg there. From the first day, I knew he was different from any other person I had ever met. My first impression was pure amazement at just how well he spoke Armenian. And when I say he spoke Armenian, I mean he spoke the purest, cleanest Armenian I had ever heard – no use of Russian/English terms or slang, which is quite honestly rare. I remember he even wanted to change the culture of using the word “okay” in Armenian to using ale (ալէ), which was an acronym for “everything is good” (“ամեն ինչ լավ է”). From thereon, the more time we spent together, it became very clear his command of Armenian was only one of many remarkable things about Gev.

It turns out Gevorg was not only studying philosophy and law at his beloved Yerevan State University (YSU), but also receiving a third degree from the Vazgen Sargsyan Military University, which is the Armenian equivalent of West Point. I’d never met anybody who was so well versed in multiple disciplines, not to mention very dedicated about serving in the military. Gevorg told me that he believed Armenia needed intelligent, passionate people to serve and make the military better. It was very different from the usual attitude of people believing they were too smart or too valuable to fight in the army. Gevorg was the kind of upstanding citizen who truly lived and practiced the values he spoke of.

And in that short summer, I had the pleasure of spending time with Gevorg not only volunteering, but bonding and discussing any and all topics of life. Gevorg had a level of maturity years beyond his age and such honest character, and it was just unbelievable. That’s why so many people gravitated towards him – we all admired and aspired to be even a fraction of the kind of person he was. Conversations with Gevorg lived up to his personality; they were one of many places where his intellectual curiosity and grasp of philosophy and law shined. He could talk about anything and impart wisdom – making cunning arguments, and drawing from life experience or philosophical theories as if it were second nature. It was a blessing that we turned out to be neighbors, and we would often come home together after volunteer shifts and hang out around the neighborhood, having chats for hours under the streetlights of Papazian Street.

That summer, Gevorg was finishing up his final year studying at the military university, but until he graduated and was deployed, he had some last weeks to spend with his friends and family. That we got to spend time together before he would go to serve for two years meant a lot to me, because I knew he had an endless number of friends and loved ones to pass the time with. A few of our best memories included getting autographs from Henrikh Mkhitaryan, watching the World Cup soccer games, and visiting his favorite Yerevan State University. Something I noticed was that every time we would hang out, so many people, at least 5-7 each day, would recognize Gevorg and stop him to catch up. One of our mutual friends told me, “Oh this is completely normal, get used to it if you’re going to be spending time with Gev.”

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During those months, Gevorg was always talking about so many of his goals and ideas for Armenia, and how he was already thinking about all of the things he’d like to do when he came back from his military service. And then just like that the time for his military swearing ceremony and graduation approached. I joined alongside his friends and family who came to watch him pledge his allegiance to Armenia at the Vazgen Sargsyan Military University. And if it wasn’t already clear how important Gevorg was to his community and peers, there were well over 20 people there to see him, when most had only a few family members and maybe one or two friends come to watch.

It was a hot, dry Yerevan day, and Gevorg was alongside the other graduates standing under the sun in full military gear, for what must have been at least an hour. When he finally was called up to swear allegiance to the military, and finished, the amount of applause and cheers from our crowd was so loud that anybody who didn’t know Gevorg quickly figured out just how big of a beloved figure he was. After swearing in, there were a few speeches given, and of course, Gevorg was one of the few to speak. Speaking on behalf of his graduating class, he said, “We made a pledge, so our country could be eternal. We made this choice willingly. For our nation to become better. For our generations live in a safer and more peaceful country.” After the speeches, the swearing in ceremony ended, and Gevorg met us outside the gates of the university. Despite being in the hot sun for so long, he still came out with a smile on his face to greet his friends, take pictures, and thank them for coming. After that, we ended going back together to his house, where I briefly met his family. They were so proud of Gevorg, their only son, who would be going off soon to protect the motherland.

After the ceremony, there were still a few days until Gevorg would officially be deployed, and I remember meeting with Gevorg the night before he would be deployed to say goodbye. A couple of his neighborhood friends had gathered with us too, and we talked, and talked, and talked through the evening. I remember Gevorg saying he didn’t know if he’d be going to sleep that night, but what the reason was escapes my mind. Eventually, the time came to say goodbye, and we parted ways.

That was the last day I saw Gevorg. For two years he served in Mataghis, Artsakh, and was a beloved officer of the military, having a big impact on all those who had the honor to know him. I’m certain they felt the same we all felt when we met him. There’s a phrase in Armenian that people use to describe individuals who are very revered, that roughly translates to “Big with a capital letter.” Gevorg was especially “Big” in this sense, in all aspects of his life. I never really got a chance to know the details of Gevorg’s life during his military service, but from the brief messages he got a chance to send during that time, he never once complained. I would sometimes find out some details on how Gev was doing through one of his friends, who more regularly spoke to him over the phone, and he too said Gev was always positive.

When Gevorg finished his military service, it was August 2020, and I remember feeling such joy knowing he’d finally be back home and get to continue fulfilling all the amazing things he had planned for Armenia. In the time he was back, Gevorg did not delay. He enrolled again in YSU to pursue master’s degrees in philosophy, law and human resources. Always an active member in student government as an undergraduate, upon returning, Gevorg was elected chairman of the Scientific-Educational Commission of YSU Student Council. In addition to continuing his education, he also began working as a military studies teacher at the Hay Aspet School. He was even interviewed by Shant TV after taking on the position. Gevorg explained that he thought the role of a teacher was not simply teaching students the material, but to discipline children, share one’s life experience, and more importantly, prepare them to be good citizens worthy of their country.

Sadly, Gevorg’s time on this earth to share his values and talents was cut too short. The war Azerbaijan waged against Artsakh beginning on September 27 took the lives of many, and Senior Lieutenant Gevorg Arshakyan was no exception. Even though Gevorg had finished his two years of compulsory military service, he volunteered to go back and sacrifice his life to protect our homeland. His aunt described in a television interview about his final days that the closed door in their house could not stop Gevorg from going to volunteer – his decision was final. If they didn’t let him leave through the front door, he threatened to jump out from the window. Eventually his family gave in and let him leave. Senior Lieutenant Arshakyan lost his life in the defense of Shushi on November 7, 2020. His 24th birthday was just 5 days later.

To say it is a devastating loss for our nation is an understatement. There is so much Gevorg had done and wanted to do for Armenia and Artsakh, it could really be the content of an entire book. In the words of one of Gevorg’s friends “When people say Gevorg became a hero, he really didn’t become a hero. He was already a living hero.” It was an honor to meet real life hero Senior Lieutenant Arshakyan, and his legacy and life, like those of all our brave fallen soldiers, will forever be immortal. Rest in power my ֆանտաստիկ friend.


Some of Gevorg’s friends and I would like to continue his legacy and create some form of a memorial in his name. If you are moved by his story, please send me an email at, and I will let you know how you can contribute to honoring his life.

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