Winter Springs WWII veteran, Emil Abrahamian, has a new and important job to help honor those who fought in Desert Storm.
Emil Abrahamian has had quite the life. He’s a professional syndicated cartoonist and decorated World War II veteran whose family immigrated to the United States from Armenia to escape persecution. And Emil is now the National Goodwill Ambassador for the National Desert Storm War Memorial, a major undertaking for a worthy cause.
The Winter Springs resident is the perfect choice for this honor. During Desert Storm, Emil produced an array of patriotic graphics and drawings, some sold to benefit the wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Scott Stump, CEO of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association, the man charged with funding and building the monument, says Emil had initially reached out to his group to offer assistance.
“He was kind of the official patriotic cartoonist during Desert Storm,” says Scott, who served four-and-a-half-years as an infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps, six months of which was spent on duty during Desert Storm. “I thought he could best serve us as our ambassador. He can talk to anybody. He’s a 90-year-old fireball.”
Scott says his board of directors for the project consists of war veterans from Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, and now, with Emil, World War II.
”What an honor to have someone from The Greatest Generation on board,” Scott adds. “He is a natural fit and a great representation for the project.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, a fast moving assault that consisted of one month of bombing and a 100-hour ground campaign. The memorial will recognize the 680,000 men and women who served during the conflict and the nearly 300 Americans who died. It was the largest deployment of troops since the Vietnam War.
Emil is best known for his comic strip Stumpy Stumbler. He found some success in the U.S., but was critically acclaimed in Saudi Arabia. At one point, Emil was penning six different drawings and cartoons for Arab News, an English language newspaper. His popular Sports File series educated readers on famous people who had played sports, such as Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan, who both thanked Emil personally.
His patriotic drawings drew the attention of contemporary politicians, as well. “George Bush thought it was a wonderful thing what I was doing,” Emil says with a smile. “He sent me a letter thanking me.” Not only that, but one of Emil’s drawings is in the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Lewisville, Texas.
Emil has also been friendly with many of the great cartoonists, including Charles Schulz, Mort Walker, and Bil Keane. “I have met a lot of nice people over the years,” Emil says. “Good-hearted, talented people.”
Born in Buffalo, New York, Emil met his Lebanese-born wife, Susan, at a dance in Canada. Her family had fled her country during unrest, as well.
Now that he isn’t drawing as much because of an issue with his left eye, Emil is entertaining soldiers at the V.A. Hospital in Lake Nona.
“I like the veterans and am proud to be one,” says Emil, who was drafted out of high school in 1945 and served as a radio operator with the Army in the European theater. “Soldiers still write me requesting autographed pictures and drawings. I feel for these kids.”
Emil is also keeping busy with his new job as ambassador. Emil takes his appointment seriously and works daily promoting awareness of the new memorial and assisting in fundraising. Local events will be arranged for Emil to attend as efforts move forward.
“We need to make some traction in Florida,” says Scott. “There are a lot of vets there.”
After Congress voted 370-0 to authorize the memorial, the federal government donated the land, which is among the other war memorials currently at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For it to come to fruition, the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association needs to raise an estimated $25 million. As of the end of September, early fundraising efforts stood at $800,000. The largest gift thus far came from the VFW, a pledge of $500,000.
The memorial is slated to be dedicated in 2018.
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