Farewell to a patriot and an American hero

by Hovsep Melkonian

Published: Tuesday July 27, 2010

Colonel George Juskalian.

Medals of Col. Juskalian .

Retired Army Colonel George Juskalian, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam passed away on July 4, 2010 at the age 0f 96 after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife Lucine, his sons Gregory, George, and daughter Elissa along with their respective families and children.

Juskalian was born in Fitchburg, Mass. on June 7, 1914 and was the youngest son of Kevork Juskalian of Kharpert and Maritza Ferrahian of Arapkir. He was raised in Fitchburg, attended the local High School and graduated from Boston University in 1936 with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism while concurrently earning a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army Reserve via ROTC.

He was planning on pursuing a law degree when his father's death and family obligations forced him to postpone his plans. Around this time, foreseeing that the United States would inevitably get involved in the war in Europe, he volunteered for active duty in the United States Army.

Lieutenant George Juskalian was called to active duty in November of 1940 and served in the armed forces of the United States with great valor and distinction for more than 30 years. During WWII he saw combat duties in North Africa where he was captured by German forces and held as a prisoner of war for more than 27 months in various prisoner camps in Tunisia, Italy, Germany and Poland; he was a battalion commander in Korea in 1952-1953; he was military advisor to the Vietnamese Army under combat conditions in 1963-1964 and advisor to the Imperial Iranian Army in Teheran, 1957-1958. Other key assignments included service in General Dwight Eisenhower's secretariat in the Pentagon, 1945-1948 and subsequent postings at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Fort Benning, Georgia. He retired from the United States Army with the rank of Colonel in 1967.

In the course of a distinguished military career, Col. Juskalian was awarded a whole slew of medals recognizing him for courage and gallantry, including, among others, two silver medals, four bronze stars, the Legion of Merit and Army Commendation Medal. The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the United Sates armed forces for extraordinary heroism and valor in the face of enemy. On more than one occasion Col. Juskalian risked his life to save the lives of his comrades in arm and to lead them to safety in dangerous combat situations.

In his book titled "Triumph and Glory - Armenian World War II Heroes" published in 1996 author Richard N. Demirjian provides extensive details and information on US military personnel, servicemen and officers of Armenian origin who saw action during WWII. Demirjian lovingly describes  "the selfless heroism and indomitable spirit" that marked these heroes who rose in defense of freedom.

"My purpose for collecting and documenting their experience" writes Demirjian in the Preface of his book " is twofold: 1) to record what a few gallant and courageous Armenian service men and women endured during World War II so that the present and future generations will honor their deeds; 2) to document the strong bond of Armenian comradeship often established when Armenians meet by chance no matter from what part of the country or world they come from" (page xv).

Col. Juskalian's life story as told by Demirjian exemplifies at best the profile of those heroes selected to appear in that volume. As an American patriot, Col. Juskalian served his country with selfless dedication, courage and heroism while at the same time he cherished his Armenian roots, heritage and connections and was extremely proud of them.

Col. Juskalian was among a select number of former officers of the United States Army interviewed for a documentary series created by the US Naval Institute entitled "Americans at War". Each episode features a US veteran recounting a defining moment from his or her time in the armed services. The institute has produced almost 50 episodes in an ongoing effort to record oral history. Col. George Juskalian was interviewed for this documentary series along with other personalities who had served the US Army such as former Senator and Presidential candidate Robert Dole, Senator Daniel Inouye, President George W.H. Bush (father), and Senator Jim Webb. The series purported to "look back at the moments when ordinary people were called to extraordinary heroism".

Following his retirement from the Army, Col. Juskalian became the Director of Graduate Admissions at the Southeastern University, while pursuing in the same institution a Masters in Business and Public Administration. He also served a three year appointment to the Veterans Administration Advisory Committee for Former Prisoners of War and did volunteer work with numerous benevolent and community relief organizations. He lived in Centreville, Virginia with his family for over 25 years and he was an active and respected member of St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church in Washington D.C.

Col. George Juskalian devoted as much energy and time to Armenian community affairs as he could. He is a former member of the Armenian General Benevolent Union's (AGBU) Central Committee of America; he has served on the Diocesan Council of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and served a ten-year term on its Board of Trustees. In recognition of these services   to Church and nation, His Holiness Vazken I, Catholicos of All Armenians, awarded Col. Juskalian in 1988 the medal of St. Nerses Shnorhali. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recognized Col. George Juskalian for his heroism and honorable service to the United States during a formal session on April 23, 2007.

Following his death, tributes honoring Col. Juskalian's memory have come from all segments of society. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, said in a letter addressed to the family: " More than once in his life, he entered the lion's den of personal danger - often to rescue others, or to risk and endure captivity. And as it happened with the young shepherd David, God delivered George Juskalian, and gave him the chance to live a long and productive life. It was a life that touched and blessed all of us".

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Reporter closing

The Cafesjian Foundation has taken a difficult decision to close The Armenian Reporter. We regret that we are forced to take this decision after more than eight years of publishing. We thank our readers and all individuals who have contributed to the Reporter. Kathleen Cafesjian Baradaran Chair, Cafesjian Family Foundation


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