By Hovsep M. Melkonian
WASHINGTON — Members of the Armenian community of the Greater Washington Metropolitan area, invited guests and elected local officials joined Rep. Frank Wolf, from the 10th congressional district of the Commonwealth of Virginia, on Saturday, May 21, to mark the official dedication of the Sully Station Post Office Building in Centreville, Va. in the name of the late Col. George Juskalian.
Juskalian, a decorated veteran of three wars, died on July 4, 2010 in Centreville, at the age of 96, and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on October 19, 2010.
Rev. Hovsep Karapetyan, pastor of St. Mary’s Armenian Church, offered the invocation before the presentation of colors by guards from the local American legion Post 177, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 8469. The Chantilly Academy Air Force JROTC, the Westfield High School Band and Chorus participated in the program befitting the occasion. After their rendition of the national anthem, colonel Juskalian’s daughter, Elissa Lucine Juskalian, led the audience in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
“Col. George Juskalian not only was an honorable man and a servant to his country but he was also a devout Christian” said Karapetyan in a short address to the audience assembled before the building. “He was ready to sacrifice his life for his country and its people. This initiative of designating the Centreville Post Office as the Col. George Juskalian building is a great honor and privilege that extends beyond his military career and achievements and goes all the way to his Armenian roots. On behalf of St. Mary’s Armenian Church I bring my utmost appreciation to Congressman Frank Wolf and Senator Mark Warner for supporting this initiative and making this to become reality. Our appreciation also goes to those who stand behind this great project and this great endeavor.”
Taniel Koushakjian, Assembly grassroots director who was present at the ceremony noted: “This is a historic occasion not only for our veterans but for the Armenian-American community, as Col. George Juskalian becomes only the second Armenian-American to have a US Post Office named after him.”
In remarks marking the occasion, Rep. Frank Wolf paid tribute to Colonel George Juskalian heroism and dedication to public service: “Col. Juskalian served in the Unites States Army with great distinction for nearly 30 years, including service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He spent 27 months in captivity as a Prisoner of War (POW) during WWII and received numerous awards from the US Army for outstanding service including its highest honor, the Legion of Merit. Colonel Juskalian was an example of the best of America, son of immigrants who devoted himself to the preservation of our nation and freedom around the world. Col. George Juskalian was one of the most highly decorated Armenian-American veterans to ever serve in the US Military. He is recognized for his service and his dedication to America.”
The House of Representatives had unanimously approved on December 1, 2010 HR 6392, legislation introduced by Wolf (R-VA) and supported by Virginia’s entire Congressional delegation, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5003 Westfields Boulevard in Centreville as the “Colonel George Juskalian Post Office Building” in honor of his military career and dedication to public service. Swift Senate approval of HR 6392 followed and President Barack Obama signed this resolution as Public Law 111-367 on January 4, 2011.
Friends and neighbors led by Greg Mathieson who knew Juskalian, organized a letter-writing campaign and lobbied Frank and Sen. Mark Warner to sponsor jointly the bill. Representatives from the American Legion Post 1995 and Veterans of Foreign Wars 9469 Post 8469 also wrote to them to help support the idea.
American Legion Post Commander Peter DeFreece wrote that naming the building after Juskalian was an act that would do much more than to honor one veteran’s service: “Although Centreville, Virginia has many residents that have served our nation with distinction, there is no monument, plaque or memorial dedicated to the men and women of the US Armed Forces. Naming the Centreville Postal Facility for Colonel Juskalian would represent a constant reminder to patrons of the service and sacrifices made by the military veterans in their community. By placing Colonel Juskalian’s name and a small memorial in the Centreville Post Office, we honor him and all the veterans within our community, past, present and future”.
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 second Lieutenant in the US Army Reserve via ROTC.
Juskalian was called to active duty in November of 1940. During WWII, he saw combat duties in North Africa where he was a prisoner of war for more than 27 months; 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, Ga. He retired from the United States Army with the rank of colonel in 1967.
In the course of a distinguished military career, Juskalian was awarded a 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 Juskalian risked his life to save the lives of his comrades and to lead them to safety.
He lived in Centreville with his family for more than 25 years and was an active and respected member of St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church.
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 and the Armenian Assembly of America; he served on the Diocesan Council of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. In recognition of these services to Church and nation, Vazken I, Catholicos of All Armenians, awarded Juskalian in 1988 the medal of St. Nerses Shnorhali. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recognized Juskalian for his heroism and honorable service to the United States during a formal session on April 23, 2007.
Recognizing the multi-faceted contributions that the late Juskalian had made to his community and country, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell issued on this occasion a certificate of recognition bringing to the attention of the citizens of Virginia the significance of “this observation on this day coinciding with the Armed Forces Day.” Virginia State Delegate Jim LeMunyon read the declaration and handed the framed certificate to Kevork Juskalian, the late colonel’s son, who has also served in the US Armed Forces. Letters sent by former Senators John Warner and Presidential candidate Robert Dole commending the services of Juskalian were also read before a plaque honoring his services was unveiled jointly by Wolf and members of Juskalian family.
Following the ceremony a reception was held in the post office just named for Juskalian, bringing the proceedings of a memorable day to conclusion.