BEVERLY HILLS—More than 800 Homenetmen members and supporters gathered on Friday, July 3 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the 40th Navasartian Games Victory Banquet.
Guests in attendance included Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian; ARF Bureau Member Khatchig Mouradian; Homenetmen Central Executive members Hagop Tufenkjian and Vicken Tavitian; ARF Central Committee representative Dr. Viken Hovsepian; California State Assembly members Katcho Achadjian and Matt Dababneh; retired federal judge Dickran Tevrizian; City of Montebello Mayor Jack Hadjinian; Olympic Committee of Armenia member Albert Boyajian; Homenetmen Lebanon Regional Executive member and Lebanese Olympic Committee member Vatche Zadourian; representatives of sister organizations and numerous supporters.
The banquet commenced with the entrance of the Regional Executive’s marching band, which created enthusiasm among guests. Then, Homenetmen Ararat Chapter Scoutmaster Evana Grigorian sang the American, Armenian, and Homenetmen anthems.
Archbishop Mardirossian performed the invocation, conveyed his blessings, and commended Homenetmen for organizing the Navasartian Games.
Welcoming remarks were delivered by Master of Ceremony Charlie Ghailian, who extended his heartfelt congratulations for the camaraderie of all chapters in attendance, the commitment of the Homenetmen Western Regional Executive and Central Executive, and this year’s honorees, including Exemplary Homenetmen Member Jirair Sarkissian and Honorary Presidents Varant and Hoori Melkonian.
“A century ago, two distinct group of men set in motion two very distinct set of plans. One plan called for the extermination of the Armenian nation. The other, for the preservation of the Armenian youth. One plan vowed to make extinct a culture of four millennia. The other vowed its youth would march toward their fifth. One plan would become known as the first genocide of the 20th century, that of the Armenian Genocide. The other in the ensuing years would become known as the Homenetmen organization. As one plan marched its victims to their death, the other continues to parade its youth to victory. Two distinct plans both originating from the same city with two very distinct objectives. We, here this evening 100 years later, are living testimony of a healthy, vibrant Armenian nation and of that plan which failed,” Ghailian stated. He then toasted guests in the name of the plan that actually prevailed, that of the Homenetmen organization.
After the welcoming remarks, guests watched a video presentation highlighting the history of the organization.
The Homenetmen Regional Executive’s message was delivered by Chairperson Manuel Marselian, who attested to the fact that in the past 40 years, the Navasartian Games have continue to grow, and the number of athletes, teams, and types of sports it entails continues to increase, all of which makes the Navasartian Games the largest and most organized event of its kind in the Diaspora.
While the organization has endured challenges throughout the 97 years since its founding, Marselian explained that its experienced members have always driven Homenetmen to its best. A prime example he noted is the 2015 Exemplary Homenetmen Member Jirair Sarkissian.
Marselian commended Honorary Presidents Varant and Hoori Melkonian, and also expressed appreciated to Bedig and Maro Fermanian, who have morally and financially supported the organization’s events and activities throughout the past year.
After congratulating the 125th anniversary of the ARF, Marselian affirmed that the entire Homenetmen family would always adhere to the “We Remember and We Demand” motto.
Thereafter, a slideshow featured the organizational life of Jirair Sarkissian. Chairperson Marselian outlined Mr. Sarkissian’s dedicated service to Homenetmen and invited him to the podium to accept a plaque recognizing him as the 2015 Exemplary Homenetmen Member. While Sarkissian received this honor, it was greeted with a standing ovation by guests.
On behalf of himself and his family, Sarkissian thanked the Homenetmen Regional Executive and explained that he shared this honor bestowed upon him with fellow Homenetmen members, who wholeheartedly serve the organization.
A candle lighting ceremony and dinner followed Sarkissian’s recognition.
Guests then watched a video presentation highlighting the organization life and successes of Varant Melkonian. Following the video, Chairperson Marselian invited the 39th Navasartian Games Honorary Presidents Bedig and Maro Fermanian to the stage to deliver remarks. Mr. Fermanian expressed appreciation to the organization, congratulated the evening’s honorees, and called upon guests to instill within their children Homenetmen’s motto of “Elevate Yourself and Others With You.”
Following these remarks, the ribbon exchange ceremony was held whereby Honorary Presidents Varant and Hoori Melkonian officially accepted their title.
Varant Melkonian expressed thanks and recalled on his membership to the Homenetmen Los Angeles Chapter 35 years prior. “I could have never imagined that one day my wife and I would have the honor to serve as Honorary Presidents of the Navasartian Games. Words alone cannot describe how humbled we feel at this moment as we stand before you,” stated Melkonian. “We are here because of a very simple yet powerful credo, ‘Elevate Yourself and Others With You.’ Succeed but do not forget where you come from. It is this message that Homenetmen has instilled in me, as it did in many of you, at a young age.”
He extended appreciation to Homenetmen for being an integral part of his life and better familiarizing him with the community. “Homenetmen taught me values and experiences that helped me succeed in all aspects of life,” explained Melkonian. As a result, he described how he has been able to be of service to numerous organizations, including the ANCA, Armenian Cultural Foundation, AYF, ARS, Hamazkayin, AGBU, and Armenian schools. Melkonian stressed that even through success, one should never forget his roots. He stressed that Homenetmen is an organization that unites people with the sole purpose of preparing educated, strong, and patriotic generations to come.
Melkonian brought mention to the Armenian Genocide Centennial, during which the “We Remember and We Demand” motto and the March for Justice united the Armenian community.
He reflected upon the great strides Homenetmen has made throughout the past ten years, with new centers and gyms in Glendale, Pasadena, Los Angeles, Burbank, and the San Fernando Valley; a new regional campground in Frazier Park; and a headquarters in Eagle Rock, all of which will contribute to the growth, education, and empowerment of future generations.
He stressed, “But our work is not done. As we strive for collective excellence, we must fight to stay relevant. We must be open to change, yet guard our traditions. Homenetmen has stood the test of time because at the core of its founding, it had a simple and clear vision: to serve and educate our youth. That must not change. To our youth, I say rise up, but do not forget where you come from. Homenetmen is yours and the torch must continue to pass.”
In conclusion, Melkonian extended thanks to the 39th Navasartian Honorary Presidents Bedig and Maro Fermanian, congratulated Mr. Jirair Sarkissian, as well as honorary presidents and exemplary members of years past for their tireless contributions, and recognized the efforts of the banquet organizing committee and its chairperson Koko Balian.
After the end of the banquet program, the Allen G Orchestra entertained guests, who enjoyed the remainder of the evening in a lively atmosphere.