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"YOU ARE ALREADY HEROES, GUYS"I find Vartan lying in the hospital room. The right hand is immobilezed with iron rods, there are scars left on the masculine face, still not completely healed. The doctors say that only the left hand and head are not injured, but they are in a hurry to give hope. The hopes for a full recovery are high. And when we start talking to Vartan, I am convinced that he was only physically taken to the hospital from the hottest part of the battlefield. He is there with his soul, he is still fighting with his comrades-in-arms, with his soldiers on the front and he does not doubt our victory for a moment.

Vartan is an artilleryman. The article I wrote about him in the Hay Zinvor magazine was published in September of this year. Then I should have known that that day was Vartan’s birthday. “It was my best gift,” he said happily over the phone. Tadevos Hambardzumyan, the father of Vardan’s grandfather, a proud Syunik resident who was completely devoted to his service, was a comrade-in-arms of Garegin Nzhdeh and took part in the life-and-death battles in defense of Syunik. Today, Vartan continues the work of the great grandfather. When the war broke out in Artsakh, his unit was sent in one of the hottest directions of the battlefield.

"YOU ARE ALREADY HEROES, GUYS"“We fought in the direction of Jabrayil,” says Vardan. “We completed many tasks.” The work was constant, there was not even a minute to rest. My D-30 batteries worked without stopping. When hundreds of enemy bullets fly towards your positions, when drones, the “Kamikazes” are constantly spinning above your head, it is impossible otherwise. The coordinates were given from the observation point, we were shooting. We did not calculate how much we hit. I often did not even know what we were shooting at, whether it was a tank, or some other military equipment. In the end, we asked what we were hitting.” They said “tank column” or “infantry; they are running away!” One time the infantry was so close that we could already see them. We started firing with artillery fire, causing losses and throwing back about 3 kilometers. Countless enemy troops, we hit tanks, but the hitting of the TOS was, of course, very encouraging. From above, they reported from the observation point. They took out TOS. Less than a minute later, when we started firing, they shouted from above, “We hit it!” It was a very important moment for me. I immediately made a note in my book. “On October 7, at 18:13, we hit the enemy’s TOS.” But we did not have time to rejoice. They paused for 20 seconds. Heavy shelling again…

On the first day, everything seemed strange, then slowly it became normal. At first, when we saw that “Kamikadze” was rising and circling in the air for about two hours, we were a little psychologically depressed. We could hear the sound, the peculiar buzz that sounded a bit like a Druzhba saw. But the next time “Kamikadze” started flying over our heads, the crew did not care. We fired at them. Many things that seemed impossible to do in the past, we could do right away. If in peacetime we could put aside our vests and helmet, we would all be wearing them now. I did not take it out at all. I slept with them. I did not let my soldiers take them out either. You do not know what will happen next, we should have been completely protected. I was constantly explaining and urging. If I saw that after that my soldier took off his vest, I would hit him with a stone and say: “Let the stone touch, not the shrapnell.”

One day we were constantly firing. And suddenly we had a problem with one of the cannons: the optical device that is placed on the cannon to determine the direction was broken. It was damp from the rain, we did not have time to change it. And suddenly we see one of our soldiers, with a cigarette in his mouth, was going to get a new one to replace it. Shells exploded next to him, and he did not even give up his cigarette. He did his job and came back running. The cannon fired. Now, this is extraordinary, my boys are extraordinary.”

"YOU ARE ALREADY HEROES, GUYS"When he talks about the soldiers, Vartan’s gaze begins to wander in the distance, where his boys are still fighting… “When we heard the stories about the April war, how 18-20-year-old boys fought heroically, we could not fully realize it. When I saw with my own eyes how those 18-year-old boys were fighting, ignoring the shells exploding next to them, firing in those conditions. The fight they fought is definitely not an obligation, it is something else. Just as a parent takes care of, keeps, raises, and nurtures a child after it is born, without thinking that it is his duty, so my gyus defend the Homeland because it is theirs, a part of them, their home… My soldiers are my children. They are 22, and I am one of them, the 23rd. ”

When Vartan starts talking about his “army”, I remember our previous interview, when we could not even predict the impending, large-scale war. He told how important his own example was in the ministry. Nothing has changed on the battlefield. The young commander stood firmly next to his soldiers. In case of any problem, he immediately rushed to the rescue. “I often heard from the superior command, ‘Vardanyan, you are not a sergeant, do not forget.’ When suddenly for some reason there was a fire failure, my heart could not stand it, I ran to the cannon, immediately eliminated the failure. Every second was on count. We all may make mistakes. My superiors did the same for me.”

My soldiers, feeling my attitude, reciprocated. When I was wounded by the shelling, all 22 of them were circling around, pulling me out, and the shells were exploding, and debris was falling on us from above. “Hold  Vardanyan, pull him behind the stone!” Dear Vardanyan, hold on! ” My soldiers did not leave me for a second. That’s all for me… When the ambulance was about to pull me out of the field on a stretcher, I shouted the names of 22 of my soldiers to hear the voices, to make sure they were OK. I calmed down when I heard everyone’s voice. At the end, when the car was being lifted, I told our artillery chief. “Take good care of my boys!”

Vartan was in the intensive care unit for 5-6 days. Now his mother, Mrs. Alla, and Anahit, his wife, are by his side. “When I first saw him in the intensive care unit,” says Anahit, “I said, “Good job, you have kept your word. You did not leave me and your mother alone. ”  He answered, “I remembered my promise in the most difficult moment…”.

It was the night of September 10, between 11-12. He had just talked to his wife and mother. He went to rest when it happened. “When the shell exploded and I was injured. As in the movies, it was as if I was slowly starting to see all around me. I even heard my words slowly. I fell and immediately felt my injuries. I could not feel my legs, I could not feel my right hand, only my left hand was moving. I could not breathe. I could feel my breath slowly slipping away from me. There was not enough air. There came a moment when I somehow inhaled the last sip of air and said to myself, this is the end. But at that moment, my relatives came before my eyes. I thought, my mother will hear the bad news in a few hours. What will happen to her? If my wife hear the news, how will she live after that? And some inexplicable force came. “At that moment, I took a deep breath and continued to live.”

Anahit caresses the forehead of her hero tenderly. The mother held a healthy hand. They are now giving strength and patience to Vartan. They realize that there is still a war in his soul, they help him to recover step by step and feel like a full-fledged fighter. “He should get well soon, how come the boys are waiting, he still has work to do on the battlefield,” Anahit urges. “He is my best student, the one who knows the best mathematics at school. That’s why he became a good artilleryman,” said Mrs. Alla, who is a math teacher, looking at her son with pity.

“I want to recover as soon as possible, to go and join my sons,” says Vartan. “I have left something unfinished and I will finish. As soon as I can stand on my own two feet, I will go straight to my boys. When the “We Will Win” movement just started, I looked at it a little differently. “When I see the professional training, fighting spirit and dedication of our troops, be sure that we will not win, but we have already won.”

He also passes on to his twenty-two heroes. “Dear boys, know that it is true, I am lying down, it is true, I can not get up yet, come to you, but I am always with you in my mind. As soon as I close my eyes, I mentally move to you, to the battlefield. Take a good care of yourself, most importantly, be careful on the front line. You are provided with everything, you just have to be careful. We do not need heroes, heroines at this moment; we need to execute orders correctly and on time. That is how we will all automatically become heroes. You are already heroes.”




Category: #43 (1363) 28.10.2020 – 03.11.2020, National army, Spotlight