Ike Sarafyan, the solitary offspring of Armenian refugees Buzand Sarafyan and Elizabeth Kistorian, was welcomed into the world on September 23, 1925, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Escaping the Armenian Genocide’s terror, his parents saw his birth as an opportunity for tranquility and normalcy.
Ike was nurtured in West Philadelphia and had a cheerful childhood until his father’s abrupt departure turned his world upside down. This seismic event led him down a path of poor choices and frequent trouble. Consequently, he found himself at the Kiss-Linn boys’ school in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, a correctional facility for young boys with minor non-violent offenses like shoplifting.
The regime at Kiss-Linn was austere, and life was particularly challenging for some boys. Those who toed the line and demonstrated industriousness were permitted monthly visitors, a privilege not extended to Ike. He detested the correctional school, leading him to flee in October 1940. However, his freedom was short-lived as state police quickly apprehended him.
In January 1943, with a global conflict in full swing, 17-year-old Ike enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Aware of the slim odds of returning home from the Pacific Theater, he was nevertheless steadfast in his conviction that fighting for freedom was the right path.
His first taste of combat was on Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, where he displayed exceptional valor. Later, he served on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, where he lost a dog tag. Ike was renowned for his profound affection for his comrades and his admiration for the esprit de corps within the Marines. Tragically, four days shy of his 19th birthday, Ike fell in the brutal battle of Peleliu in Palau on September 19, 1944, despite attempts, his remains were never discovered.
Back home, his mother was inconsolable. The loss of her only child haunted her until her demise on February 25, 1989, in Worcester, after remarrying Carey Kegam Chakarian and moving to Massachusetts. Ike’s legacy lives on through his name, commemorated on the Tablets of the Missing at the American Cemetery in Manila, Philippines, and on a memorial marker at the Massachusetts National Cemetery.
A poignant twist of fate occurred in 2012, when Mr. Mesion Bosoboe of Guadalcanal stumbled upon Ike’s lost dog tag near Tetere. Touched by Ike’s heartbreaking story, he named his newborn son in honor of the young Marine who had given his life for peace.
As we stand seventy-seven years removed from the death of Private First Class Ike Sarafyan and countless Armenian-American heroes, we are faced with a decision. We can allow time to obliterate the vestiges of the past or choose to construct a link between then and now, educating our youth about this invaluable legacy. By doing so, we ensure the remembrance of these brave Armenian American individuals who paid the ultimate price for freedom. The choice lies in our hands – a chance for us to make a difference.