Karo Qarkedjyan

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Some years ago, two Armenians from Fresno volunteered to help the inhabitants of Nagorno Karabagh in their war for independence. At that time most of Karabagh had been captured by Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Republic. The Armenians of Karabagh were faced with superior Azeri forces whose overlords had not want to give up the rich pasture lands and resources that had been handed to them by Stalin. Karo Qakhechyan and Shahe Ajemian returned time after time, eventually forming a volunteered unit called The Crusaders.

The unit was now lead by Armenian born, Arthur Boghosyan, another of Gahgechyan old comrades. With new members in a fifteen man force, code name "Spitak Arch," Ajemian and the rest were flown to the newly retaken mountains over Giulistan, in the region of Shahumian. Where along the garrison called Yeghnik they would face off against the 500 strong Azeri regions. Some of the Spitak Arches including Boghosyan had already spent grueling winter in the forest. On April 24, 1994 the Azeri stormed the October hours later they were beaten back into the trees.

While the Yeghniks and Arches were up on the mountains to the north. A Battalion was attempting to retake the region, near brushier. At the beginning of May I’ve realized Alfabacracth overlooking fearsome artillery exchange. The Armenians have once fought safety of the hills they knew so well, chaily was wide open terrain. On this day the Karabagh forces would give over 50 killed and many more wounded. The battle was taking place by the same mountain ranges Kacedjian and Fallen not a few hundred yards from a were a now sought shelter, from the rain of shells.

Sudden bad weather brought the days operations to a standstill. Both sides were blinded by a heavy fog. Rain had re soaked the muddy roads, making traveling on nearly impossible. There are no painted roads this far north. The mud was so thick my legs felt like lead weights. One guy even asked me witch I like more, The Russian Willys or the American Jeep Wrangler, I said theirs was better, I lied.

There are two ways to get to the front lines in Karabagh: either by helicopter or by bus. The helicopter takes a hour in a half to get to Shahumian. The bus took us 2 days.

Their were two kinds of people taking the ride one kind were the conscripts who had been rounded up to fill the emptying ranks of the depleted military. The other kind were the volunteers some of them no older then 16. Old enough to steel a uniform and run away to fight.

At Stepanakert the capital we got on a truck which would take itself to the village of Maghavouz. The Russian trucks came in three colors light blue, light blue, and light blue. But they were very durable. However it wasn’t a smooth ride by any means. Our driver piloted his ship like a captain trough stormy seas like he done this thousands of times before. Gravity went out finally. A impossible hail of slipperiness faced us and it looked like we were going nowhere fast. Men had to jump off and push. In Karabagh you didn’t know the old meaning of can’t do. Every obstacle had to be surmounted. Maybe that was the secret to their success whey they been able to hold on so long against superior odds. Even the conscripts had risen to the occasion. We were all suddenly in it together. In Karabagh no man’s a island, everyone is a part of the team. Although it had overheated, our sturdy vehicle completed it’s journey and by night fall we were at our destination. Maghavouz was Yeghnik headquarters, Yeghniks were the fighters of Shahumian.