TRURO — “The name of Lewis Armstrong Young risks being forgotten,” said VFW member John Dundas at a 229th birthday party for the U.S. Navy on Oct. 15, “unless the town and all those who call Provincetown home make an effort to not forget.” He was quoting from Amy Whorf McGuiggan’s March 20, 2020 article about Young in the Independent.
Dundas spoke just before the presentation of a check for $50,000 from Provincetown’s VFW Post 3152 to establish an annual scholarship at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy named for Young, the World War I veteran from Provincetown who died in 1918. “This donation is to keep Young’s legacy alive,” he told more than 50 guests at the celebration at Montano’s restaurant, which also honored the U.S. Merchant Marine.
Merchant Marine Capt. Allen Metcalfe Jr., a vice president of Mass Maritime, said he was deeply moved as he accepted the check.
With the razing in 2020 of the VFW building that had Young’s name displayed over the front door and the imminent dissolution of the post itself because of a precipitous decline in membership, the Outer Cape community would seem to be on the verge of forgetting its deep historical connections to military service.
Noting that the highest losses of American forces in the North Atlantic in World War II were suffered by the Merchant Marine and referencing a photograph taken circa 1940 of a group of some 40 young men from the Outer Cape who served in the Navy during the war, Dundas emphasized how fragile memory is.
Everyone who spoke that evening reminded the audience, at times in intimate detail, of the virtues and challenges of service, commitment, sacrifice, pride, and honor associated with life in the military.
The evening began with a prayer by Robert Lewis, whose son Michael fell to his death one semester before he was scheduled to graduate from the Maritime Academy in 2018; he was awarded his degree posthumously. The Lewis family established a scholarship in Michael’s name, which inspired the VFW to establish the Young scholarship.
The pledge of allegiance was led by 11-year-old Kevin Butilier, who will perform the same duty at the Veterans Day ceremony in Provincetown on Nov. 11. Dundas offered a tribute to World War II Navy veteran Sibby Davis of North Truro, a plumber who survived the war by a stroke of luck and who left his mark in the homes he worked on by signing the joists. Davis died last year at 97.
Former VFW commander and Marine Corps Capt. Andy Fingado followed with a talk on little-known stories of heroism in Naval history, focusing on a small destroyer escort named the Stanley B. Roberts. It played an important role in rescuing a fleet of U.S. aircraft carriers from a Japanese assault in World War II.
Dundas noted that casualties of war include losses from accidents and disease. Lewis Young was not killed in combat; he was one of at least 20 million who died in the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic.
Dundas noted that any student in Barnstable County will be eligible for the scholarship as a way “for Young’s name to live on.”
Capt. Metcalfe, who flew more than 25 carrier-based combat missions during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm aboard the USS Saratoga, gave an account of his squadron’s return to the U.S., where they were met by the press and a celebratory crowd. As he walked back to a hangar, he said, he encountered a man standing alone. Metcalfe asked what his connection was to the unit, and the man said none. He simply wanted to see the troops welcomed home. The man, a Vietnam veteran, said, “When we came home, they hated us.” The men embraced, Metcalfe in tears.
In its final act before dissolution, Provincetown VFW Post 3152 will hold a celebration of the Marine Corps birthday on Nov. 12, when another $50,000 donation will be made to Cape Cod Community College.