After more than a year of service with the 308 th Civil Affairs Brigade of the United States Army Reserve, Specialist John Merguerian recently completed a tour of duty in Baghdad.
Before his assignment was completed, the Armenian-American Merguerian (of Boston) took time to expand his civil service for personal reasons.
“I visited the El-Thufar Elementary School in downtown Baghdad,” Merguerian wrote to ArmeniaNow. “El-Thufar means ‘victory’. It is located next to the St. Gregory Armenian Church which still remains closed due to lack of security in downtown Baghdad.”
Merguerian learned that it had once been an Armenian school but was nationalized. The school is attended by Iraqi-Armenian children, who get Sundays off for Christian observance, and by Muslim-Arab children who have Friday off for the Islamic holy day.
On Sundays, Father Simon Gabrielian, Father Nareg Eshganian and his wife Tsovinar Eshaganian teach Bible lessons and Christian liturgy to Iraqi-Armenian children.
While on a leave, Merguerian contacted a Boston chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the Armenian Students Association of the University of California, through which funds were raised to purchase gifts and supplies for the school. About 200 children are enrolled there, ranging from age 6 to 13.
At the school, Merguerian met principal Anahit Amerkhanian and he and fellow soldiers delivered school supplies, soccer balls, notebooks and toys.
“Now that the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone, the Iraqi-Armenian community wants the school to go back to the jurisdiction of the Armenians,” Merguerian writes. “I give special thanks to all the Armenian-Americans from the different churches and organizations who brought and delivered these items.”