BI man honored for serving 70 years with American Legion

Donald Young talked about the irony of being stationed in Greenland during the Korean War after he accepted a 70-year pin as a member of the American Legion April 4.

“We went up to Greenland during the Korean War, which was about as far away from Korea as you could get,” said Young, who is 94.

Bainbridge Island American Legion Colin Hyde Post 172 commander Gary Sakuma said awarding a 70-year pin is very rare.

“We have all these continuous year stars and only one for 70 years,” he said, adding he never imagined they were ever going to use the 70-year pin. “We may have to reorder.”

Sakuma said he didn’t even know Young had been a member that long. He received a letter from national headquarters alerting him that the post had a member who had reached a longevity milestone.

“Sure enough, I went to the roster, and I looked it up,” Sakuma said.

After the recognition ceremony and presentation of mementos, Young shared some memories from his military story.

He was drafted into the Army Nov. 17 1951, stationed at Fort Warden in Port Townsend and then Thule Air Force Base in Greenland.

“We were supposed to run landing craft bringing materials to build up a World War II airbase they were making into an all-weather jet base,” Young said. “We just acted as longshoremen, and they built 30 fuel tanks in 30 days,” as they helped move supplies off of ships into landing craft to where they built the fuel tanks.

After he returned from the war, Young and his wife, Mary, raised two children, Sharon and Bruce, in the Rolling Bay neighborhood of Bainbridge in a little house that was ideally situated between both sets of their parents.

“He married the girl next door. It was a big happy family,” said Sharon Ruddy, Young’s daughter.

Young worked on the Pope and Talbot Pioneer tugboat in Port Gamble for the lumber yard. Ruddy said he worked two weeks on and two weeks off, towing logs from Olympia to Port Ludlow or wherever logs were needed around Puget Sound and even took them through the Ballard Locks.

“It was kind of fun to see it out there. Every once in a while, we’d be at the beach, and we’d see dad out there going up and down the Sound,” Ruddy said.

With encouragement from his father, Young joined the American Legion because he thought it was a good organization and said he’s glad he kept up his membership all these years.

Being a lifelong member of the American Legion also involved Young’s family. “I remember Veteran’s Day dinners here as a child and playing bingo with my mom and my brother Bruce,” Ruddy said.