Michael Naya, Jr., of Kenilworth, NJ is the first recipient of the Alamo Scouts Historical Foundation Memorial Scholarship. And rightly so. For the past six years the Kean University sophomore history-education major has interviewed over 160 WWII veterans and compiled an impressive collection of oral histories with plans to later publish.
“After an extensive search, the ASHF Board of Directors unanimously concluded that Michael is most deserving of the $1000 award,” said ASHF Executive Director, Russ Blaise. “We are thrilled to present the inaugural award in the name of Alamo Scout, John R.C. McGowen, who led the first operational Alamo Scouts mission in 1944. It was established by John’s widow, Christine, a retired school teacher and a generous supporter of the foundation.”
Subsequent competitive scholarships will be awarded in the name of individual Alamo Scouts in the order in which they are endowed by the families. To qualify for the direct award, candidates must submit a video or written essay on a topic associated with the U.S. Army in the Pacific during World War II or make a substantial contribution to the historical record of World War II.
“Michael has accumulated an outstanding body of work at a young age,” said ASHF Historian, Lance Zedric. “We were very selective about who we chose to represent the Alamo Scouts and the ASHF, especially regarding the first award. Michael has set a high bar for other candidates, and that’s the way it should be.”
Naya’s noteworthy work with veterans has earned him honorary memberships in the 5th Marine Division Association, the 7th Armored Division Association, and in the Kenilworth Rotary Club. He holds associate memberships in the Battle of the Bulge Veterans Association and the 12th Armored Division Association and is a founding member of the Young Historians Program through the D-Day Squadron, a group of owners and operators of Douglas DC-3 vintage aircraft and World War II era airplanes.
“I am honored to be named the first recipient of the annual Alamo Scouts Historical Foundation Scholarship,” said Naya. “This work has allowed me to speak to those who witnessed history firsthand. My goal is to interview as many WWII veterans as I can from as many different aspects as I can. By shaking their hands and having a conversation it has allowed me to hear the story of what they went through personally. When you have the ability to do that, the history of WWII isn’t so black and white but a colorful, rich history that must be preserved. Their stories are fading rapidly and with that we are losing our last living connections to the past.”
When Naya learned about the Alamo Scouts he discovered that only one known scout, 97-year-old Conrad “Connie” Vineyard, survives, and he set his sights on obtaining an interview.
“I have studied both the Pacific and European theaters as veterans from both theaters are fading rapidly,” he said. “It is my hope that I can carry on the torch of preserving the history our country and of the Alamo Scouts. What interests me about Mr. Vineyard is that he may be the last surviving Alamo Scout. This is why I’d like to interview him and preserve his memories the best that I can.”
We hope so, too. And more.