Page 1

Whidbey Crosswind The Puget Sound Veterans’ Monthly | October 2017

Reunited Former SAR crews come together. z pg. 4

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Whidbey civilian saves two children By PHIL GUERRERO

tion could have ended tragically for the children,” said Brig. Gen. David J. Francis, Commanding General, Army Combat Readiness Center and Director of Army Safety at Fort Rucker. “Mr. Espinoza’s rapid response, performing under extreme pressure and hazardous conditions, demonstrate the highest standards of our Army values and our warrior ethos.”

Public Affairs Specialist Navy Region Northwest

For one Naval Air Station Whidbey Island employee, a recent trip to a Florida beach was intended to be a relaxing break. Little did he realize, his presence at the beach that day would significantly impact two young lives. Fernando Espinoza Jr., an occupational safety and health specialist who works at NAS Whidbey Island’s safety department, traveled to Panama City Beach, Fla., Aug. 12, from Fort Rucker, Ala., where he was attending a safety management course.

Espinoza grew up in El Paso, Texas, and served eight years of active duty in the Navy from 2001 to 2009. He has been serving as a federal government employee on NAS Whidbey Island since 2009 and as an occupational safety and health specialist since 2014.

His relaxing day was abruptly altered when he heard screams for help coming from nearly 150 feet offshore.

“Anyone else would have done the same thing,” he said. “I have three kids myself; Sophia, 5, Jacob, 8, and Dominic 11 years old. I would want someone to help them out if they ever needed it. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

“I heard kids screaming,” Espinoza said. “At first, I thought they were just messing around. But then I saw the rip-tide take them under.” That’s when Espinoza jumped into action, running and swimming about 50 yards to get out to where the two kids were. By the time he grabbed the kids, he was chest deep in seawater. The two brothers, 8 and 9 years old, were trying to get the attention of the lifeguard, to no avail. Espinoza put one of the children

Navy photo

Fernando Espinoza Jr. is credited with saving two children from drowning. on his back and the other under his right arm and headed back to shore with his precious cargo in tow. The lifeguard said he never heard the screams for help and recognized

Espinoza for his gallantry. “The lifeguard was a long way off,” Espinoza explained. “By the time I got the kids back to shore, the lifeguard responded.”

As a result of his actions, Espinoza was awarded the Army’s Safety Guardian Award. “Had it not been for the quick actions of Mr. Espinoza, this situa-

“I’m quite proud of Fernando,” said Capt. Geoff Moore, NAS Whidbey Island’s commanding officer. “He is indicative of the type of person who makes up our Team Whidbey family, conscientiously on the job, day in and day out, 24 hours a day.”

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Rescuers

REUNITE By Laura Guido lguido@whidbeynewsgroup.com

bers and their families attended the three-day event.

O

Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

From the left, Bud Day, Robert Davison and Richard King reminiscence during a recent Whidbey Island Search and Rescue reunion. More than 90 former SAR members attended the three-day event.

n Sunday, Sept. 10, around 90 brothers gathered to tell “sea stories,” joke about not fitting into old wetsuits and remember lost colleagues. These men were all members of the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue brotherhood. They reunited at the second-ever SAR reunion, after the first one occurred four years ago. Decades worth of former crew mem-

There were even members from the original SAR crew on Whidbey island, such as Bill Cochran who served from 1960-1964. “That makes me an old man,” he said with a laugh. Jim Joyce and Bruce Holler also were members of that original crew. Joyce and Holler talked about the severe limitations of the helicopters they used at the time. They couldn’t SEE SAR, PAGE 5

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IDENTIFICATION STATEMENT AND SUBSCRIPTION RATES PO Box 1200 | 107 S Main St, Suite E101, Coupeville, WA 98239 360-675-6611 | fax 360-679-2695 | www.whidbeycrosswind.com The Whidbey Crosswind is published monthly by Sound Publishing on the last Friday of every month. Mailed subscription available for $20 per year. Payment in advance is required. Periodicals rate postage paid at Coupeville, WA and at additional mailing offices. Copyright © 2017, Sound Publishing

READER INFORMATION: ADMINISTRATIVE: The Whidbey Crosswind is a monthly publication of Sound Publishing, and is a member of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, the National Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. Advertising rates are available at the Crosswind office. While the Crosswind endeavors to accept only reliable advertisements, it shall not be responsible to the public for advertisements nor are the views expressed in those advertisements necessarily those of the Whidbey Crosswind. The right to decline or discontinue any ad without explanation is reserved. DEADLINES: Classifieds and Display Ads – 4 p.m. Monday prior to publication; Community News and Letters to Editor – Noon Monday prior to publication. ADVERTISING SUPPLEMENTS: ARBY’S


SAR

invite them,” said Karen.

Rathbun served from 1974-1977, and his wife Karen helped organize the event. David got a call six years ago from a friend and former crew member about putting together a reunion. When both David and the friend were too busy with work to put it together, David volunteered his wife. “Karen ran with it,” he said, and the first reunion was held two years later. Karen, from Indiana, and fellow SAR spouse Esther Estes, from Hawaii, put together the next two reunions. They plan to keep holding one every four years.

While most men referred to each other as brother, Davison said his crew used to call Day “Dad,” because

He used over 50 websites to find as many members as he could. He said he has around 680 people in his database, which includes both former SAR members and some of their family members.

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“I’m the locator and the people coordinator,” said Arnes.

“With the job we did, you didn’t know if you were going to still be there the next day,” said Bud Day, who served with Davison and King. “So we played hard and worked hard.”

AN

They recruited Dan Arnes, another former SAR member, to help find people.

Some atteedes were locals. Robert Davison, Island County deputy sheriff, and local paramedic Richard King both attended. The two, who were roommates while serving in the Navy, told stories of being left overnight in the mountains during rescues. Davison said he spent a day and a half with a goat hunter who had broken his legs on Mount Shuksan. The goat hunter lived.

WH I

“All they had was a helicopter and an idea,” said David Rathbun of the first SAR Crew.

The event included a mixer at Oak Harbor Tavern, dinner the next night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost and a picnic on the last day at VFW.

W

do high altitude or nighttime over-water rescues, and there were serious weight limits. Joyce said there really wasn’t much search and rescue they were able to do, although the crew completed many medical evacuations.

Ray Romero spent three days driving from Pahrump, Nev. to attend, visiting old friends along the way. Others came from Illinois, Maryland, Wyoming and other states across the country.

O

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Qualifications for these law enforcement jobs may vary. All, however, require a special breed of individuals who want to help those in need. And for that, we thank the officers in our community for their service.

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Army nurse from Everett has vivid memories of ‘forgotten war’ By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer

“I got to meet Mamie,” Nichols said Monday.

Picture a Korean War veteran, one who received a battlefield promotion in the face of harsh conditions and dangers. Or picture someone who dealt with the gruesome realities of war in Vietnam. The image that comes to mind isn’t likely to resemble Barbara Jean Nichols. She is 95 years old, and not quite 5 feet tall. In tennis shoes, she seems the picture of a spry great-grandmother who kept the home fires burning during wartime. Nichols, though, is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who traveled the world to serve her country and provide life-saving care. Her service as an Army nurse took her close to the front lines in Korea and Vietnam, and to Germany and the old Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. At Walter Reed, she once helped take former President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the presidential suite.

By phone from Lacey, where she lives in the Panorama retirement community, Nichols spoke of her wartime experiences. During World War II, she bolted nose cones onto B-17 bombers at a Boeing assembly line in Seattle. From 1945 to 1947, as part of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, she studied at Everett General Hospital School of Nursing and Everett Junior College. She was class valedictorian when she earned her nursing credentials in 1947. Nichols, who has rarely shared what it was like to care for battlefield casualties, is now highlighted as part of an historical exhibit in Olympia, “Korea 65: The forgotten war remembered.” “This is the first time it’s really been shared,” Nichols said. Among her quotes in the exhibit is one that hints at what she continues to live with: “When you’re doing your job as a nurse or docSEE NURSE, PAGE 9

Barbara Jean Nichols, a graduate of Everett General Hospital School of Nursing, helped build Boeing warplanes during World War II and served as a nurse in the Korean War and in Vietnam. Now 95, she is featured in a Legacy Washington exhibit in Olympia. (Brian Zylstra / Office of Secretary of State)

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Korea 65 exhibit

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 8

Legacy Washington’s “Korea 65: The forgotten war remembered” exhibit is in the lobby of the Secretary of State’s Office on the second floor of the Capitol building in Olympia. See it online at www.sos. wa.gov/legacy/Korea65. Read Legacy Washington Chief Historian John Hughes’ profile of Barbara Jean Nichols at www.sos.wa.gov/_assets/legacy/barbara-nichols.pdf.

tor, you have to stay calm. When it bothers you is later. It’s the memories that won’t go away. It catches up to you.” Presented by Legacy Washington, the Korean War exhibit opened last week in the lobby of the Secretary of State’s Office on the second floor of the Capitol Building. It will be on view until July 2018, said Brian Zylstra, a spokesman with the Secretary of State’s Office. The nonprofit Legacy Washington documents stories of people and events in state history. Collaborators include the Washington State Library, Washington State Archives and heritage organizations. During the Korean War, Nichols became chief nurse at the U.S. Army’s 3rd Field Hospital on the outskirts of Pusan. By 1951, she was helping oversee more than 10,000 patients, many of them prisoners of

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war. “They were human beings,” she said of the Korean POWs. She remembers personal hardships. “There was no adequate food. The rations were terrible, so old, and lots of leftovers from World War II,” she said. For laundry, she said she washed her underwear “and everything else” in her helmet. Her parents, the late Bernard and Esther Nichols, lived in Everett in 1952 when The Everett Herald reported Nichols had received her captain’s bars while in Korea. It was 1965 when she arrived in Vietnam. “The equipment was bet-

ter than Korea, but the wounds were worse,” she said. “We got them right off the battlefield, and sent them to a hospital in Japan.” Nichols, who earned a Bronze Star in Vietnam and retired in 1969, can’t shake the memory of a man injured by a rocket launcher. “It hit him in the belly. The wounds he had, it just haunts me,” she said. That man did not survive. She remembers cutting clothes off the men brought in with injuries. “That’s where we got Agent Orange,” Nichols said. Affected by the herbicide, she suffers from peripheral neuropathy and other health issues,

and receives compensation because of 90 percent combat disability.

Bolton Act in 1943, which paid for her nursing training.

John Hughes, Legacy Washington’s chief historian and former editor and publisher of The Daily World newspaper in Aberdeen, wrote profiles about eight of the 13 people featured in “Korea 65,” including Nichols.

Hughes got a kick out of her reaction when he asked about “M*A*S*H,” the TV series based on a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the Korean War. She told him she was way too busy for the antics of the fictional characters.

“I knew that nurses in Korea were really close to the front lines,” Hughes said. In doing his research for the exhibit, “I cast my net and found this little tiny amazing woman in Panorama City. Barbara Nichols is an absolutely remarkable American woman.”

“I see a little humor in it now,” Nichols said when reminded Monday of the show’s Maj. Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan. “We didn’t have all the fun they had,” she said.

With an interest in genealogy, Nichols has traced her ancestry to the 1600s. She learned she is a descendant of John Howland, who fell overboard but was rescued during the 1620 voyage of the Mayflower. Her family’s military service, she said, dates back to the American Revolution. Nichols is grateful for the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps, created by the

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