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Whidbey Crosswind Overcoming addiction The Puget Sound Veterans’ Monthly | May 2018

Marine veteran helps others in recovery. z pg. 3

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Dennis Phillips recovers to a new life Former marine’s past helps others gain future


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He’s been arrested for DUI three times and had his driver’s license revoked.

ormer Marine Dennis Phillips juggles being an honor student at Skagit Valley College, carrying a full load of classes and working parttime with an Island County drug outreach program. In his “spare” time, Phillips volunteers with several Whidbey veterans groups, driving people to medical appointments and guiding them through bureaucratic red tape. Phillips is also a recovering addict. “From age 15 to age age 45, I was a straight-up alcoholic until the end of my drinking career,” he said. “I never went a day without being drunk. I was working to buy alcohol.” Beer, lots of beer — by the six-pack or at the bar — filled his days and nights and belly. “Keystone Light. That’s what I drank — for quantity, not quality.” Growing up in Olney, Texas, Phillips was cleaning out horse stalls following high school when he received a call from a military recruiter. “He told me, ‘There’s a whole world out there that doesn’t involve shoveling horse manure.’” At age 17, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1984, his mother crying in the background. After boot camp in San Diego, Phillips was stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island with Attack Squadron VA-128 and learned how to be a mechanic for A-6 aircraft.

Phillips, now 51, freely admits to be a functioning drunk when stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. He wasted lots of days and nights with his drinking buddies at the popular bars of the day — For Pete’s Sake and Oak Harbor Tavern. So it’s a good bet that people working with the amiable, energetic, ever-smiling Phillips today wouldn’t recognize Dennis Phillips, the drunk. Tara Hizon has shared an office with Phillips ever since he first worked for the county as an intern with the Opioid Outreach Program. Hizon coordinates Island County’s Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program and she’s a member of the Oak Harbor City Council. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group

After 30 years of drinking and finally getting sober, Former Marine Dennis Phillips of Freeland is helping others with addiction. While obtaining his associate’s degree in Human Services, Phillips works with the Island County Opioid Outreach Team. He traveled with the squadron, worked on aircraft carriers and lived in Japan for two years. Stationed at the

military base in Jacksonville, N.C., Phillips worked on helicopters engines.

At age 26, Phillips left the military, got married, had four children.

And kept on drinking. A few times, he stooped to mouthwash or food flavoring

“Dennis gives 110 percent every single day for no reason other than to prove to himself and his family that he can — and hopefully even help a few others along the way,” Hizon said. “I think he’s an absolute inspiration.” SEE RECOVERY, PAGE 4

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RECOVERY CONTINUED FROM PAGE 3 Phillips works about 20 hours a week with the outreach team that also includes a public health nurse and sheriff’s deputy. Started last year, the team is concentrating efforts for now on Camano Island and in South Whidbey communities. Phillips started part-time work a few months ago when the former outreach worker transferred to another county job. “I take referrals from family members, law enforcement, the needle exchange program and I try and help people get the recovery help they need,” Phillips explained. Many have issues preventing them from seeking treatment, such as a lack of transportation or health insurance, he said.

use. They’re using not to be sick.” He knows. He’s been there. Drinking ended his first marriage and kept his kids away. Still he didn’t stop when he married again. “Life was better, but I was still drunk all the time,” Phillips said. “I even drank mouthwash, food flavoring. I knew that if I didn’t get help, I’d lose the best thing I ever had.” He credits a 30-day inpatient program at the Walla Walla VA hospital for saving his life and Alcoholic Anonymous for keeping him sober. He faithfully attends AA meeting and recently earned his five-year coin.

Some are homeless and lost jobs, families and friends to their addiction.

“It’s been five years, two months and 17 days,” he proudly said, glancing at the calendar on his phone.

“Nobody wants to be a heroin addict,” Phillips said. “At the point when they get addicted, they’re not using to

Once he got sober, Phillips had a sense he’d be helping others face down similar fears, doubts and demons.

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After 30 years of drinking and finally getting sober, Former Marine Dennis Phillips of Freeland is helping others with addiction. While obtaining his associate’s degree in Human Services, Phillips works with the Island County Opioid Outreach Team. his own experiences, making him an ideal ally as folks navigate our complex treatment systems.

“This kind of work called for me.” Behavioral Health Specialist Skye Newkirk, who oversees the county opioid outreach program, described Phillips’ experience and personality as an ideal combination for the job.

“All of that, added to a wicked sense of humor, makes him an awesome coworker.” Phillips hopes to complete classes for an associate’s degree in human services at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon. He wants to be trained to independently assess addicted individuals, which requires 2,500 hours

“He is someone who does not give up on folks, and he always maintains hope for their recovery,” Newkirk said. “I believe that this perspective has been greatly informed by

Phillips had been working in housekeeping at veterans facilities, a job he said he enjoyed much more than he’d ever expected to after working as a welder for years.

“‘School? Me? I’m 50 years old’ is how I reacted at first,”



“Right now, I have a 3.8 GPA and I’m taking 21 credits,” he said. “For two quarters I made the honor roll with a perfect 4.0. I’m shocked. Just shocked. The whole recovery process has been such a blessing for me. I never knew that normal life is amazing.”

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Phillips said, laughing. “I’d never been to college.”

His second wife, Jennifer Phillips, a Navy veteran, suggested almost two years ago that he check out veterans’ vocational training programs.


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The Hero’s Cafe in Lynnwood offers safe space for vets By RIKKI KING

At the Hero’s Cafe, the attendees span all generations and military branches. Some wear suits, others sweatpants. As one man put it, “you can be Rotary or rotocopter.”

Herald Writer

LYNNWOOD — Terry Smith recently caught up with someone from his old U.S. Army unit, the 295th Aviation Regiment, also known as the “Cyclones.”

Several folks said they’d like to see more female veterans represented. Sharing the thought was Kristina Sawyckyj, a Navy veteran who is experiencing homelessness.

They met at a Starbucks in Fife. They talked for six hours. After 30 years, it seemed like not a day had passed, he said.

The Hero’s Cafe is a partnership among the city, Verdant and other veterans organizations. Gary Walderman, who served in Desert Storm with the Air Force, volunteers as the director.

The Hero’s Cafe in Lynnwood, an informal monthly gathering for veterans, has the same feel, he said. The program celebrated its oneyear mark in January. “The biggest thing about veterans is we’ve all been through the same experiences,” Smith said. “We’ve all been sent to various places around the world to do our thing.” “We did what we were told to do,” said Dick Thomas, who was an Air Force medic in the 1960s. The March 27 meetup filled the Verdant Community Wellness Center on 196th Street SW. More than 100 people attend every month, spilling out the doorways and into the halls. Angelita Barnes Shanahan, of Lynnwood, always brings a Costco cake. She leads the group in songs such as “Happy Birthday” and “God Bless America,” followed by yells from

Andy Bronson / The Herald

World War II Navy veteran Terry Luck (left) talks with Korean War Army veteran Philip Sacks during The Hero’s Cafe, an informal monthly gathering for veterans, in the Verdant Community Wellness Center on in Lynnwood. the crowd of “Oorah!” and “Play ball!” Shanahan’s late husband, Bruce Barnes, retired from the Navy after nearly 22 years, including

time in Vietnam. He died from health problems related to Agent Orange exposure, she said. Their son, James Barnes, also served in the Navy on a submarine and now works at Boeing in Everett.

The volunteers include Myra Rintamaki, a Gold Star mother from Lynnwood. Her son, Steven Rintamaki, a Marine, was killed in action in Iraq. His mother remains active in veterans’ causes.

Mayor Nicola Smith, whose husband was in the Army, and City Councilwoman Shannon Sessions, who served in the U.S. Air Force, have worked together on a number of veterans initiatives in recent years. Those include the cafe, a local museum and having Verdant provide a one-stop shop for veterans resources and benefits. At the March gathering, Smith asked people what they saw in the room. Someone called out, “A lot of life!” “Love you guys,” she said. “Keep coming to Hero’s Cafe.”

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Veteran’s ‘pain’ leads to center’s creation WVRC moved to Community Center on South Whidbey

established a local veterans resource center with these services in mind, getting grants and eventually receiving 501c3 status. They found a small space and relocated a few times, with all services provided by volunteers, offering support groups and help accessing veterans benefits.

By JOAN SOLTYS Whidbey News Group

Orrin Gorman McClellan, at age 21, returned from Afghanistan to his home on Whidbey Island in 2006, after serving three years in the Army. Plagued by PTSD and pervasive trauma-related problems, McClellan needed to travel for any help to Seattle, the nearest Veterans Administration facility. It was a trip he hated.

And while those services continued to expand, it wasn’t soon enough for Orrin McClellan. He died by suicide in May, 2010. “Our son is the beginning of the WVRC history, the stimulus and the guiding light, and it was likely his death that spurred others to step forward,” Gorman said. Vietnam veteran Clayton Canfield is the current president of the Whidbey Veteran Resource Center, or WVRC, and he and others involved are optimistic about the potential for the organization’s growth and sustainability.

“Orrin wanted support and help at home, in his own community,” his mother Judith Gorman said. “There was none. ‘Start something, mom. Here,’ he told us. That was our motivation. His pain.” In the months following McClellan’s return, while his parents and friends worked to help him through the process of adjusting to civilian life, Gorman and Orrin’s father, Perry McClellan, began exploring their son’s wish for a support space on Whidbey. “Orrin wanted an alcoholfree social center for himself

“Things are gaining momentum,” Canfield said. Judith Gorman submitted photo

Orrin McClellan plays with his dog Koda-Bear at Useless Bay in 2009. and other returning veterans,” Gorman said. “He hung out at the pool hall in Freeland with several older veterans and

wanted writing groups. And it was obvious all of them wanted information and services related to VA applications for


disability and services, and local support groups for veterans — men and women — for connecting and networking.”

In 2009, McClellan’s parents, with the help and support of numerous local veterans and supportive civilians,

Weekly support groups now include one for women and one for men, as well as a monthly group for all vets. A Veterans Service Officer provides assistance once a week on applying for benefits SEE CENTER, PAGE 7

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“We’ve struggled to get the word out. Our challenge is to reach out to the younger vets who may need the resources of our organization.” FRED MCCARTHY, Board member

nic and a Vietnam vets group. “She’s infused new energy into the organization.” Funding opportunities have also increased. A large number of Whidbey churches donated the collections on a recent Sunday to the WVRC. A matching grant of up to $10,000 is being offered by Lucas Jushinski, owner of Island Herb and himself a veteran. “We have pledges already for $4,000,” said board member Fred McCarthy, who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam in 1967-68.

Joan Soltys photo

Whidbey Veterans Resource Center volunteer Kat Ersch, left, drove Erma Aldous of Clinton to a meeting of the center’s women’s support group at the American Legion Post in Bayview. Aldous is a World War II veteran who served with the Navy Hospital Corps.


(“It’s pretty tricky,” Canfield said.) A VA PTSD counselor will offer mental health counseling. Island Transit has loaned a surplus van for transportation to the Seattle

VA hospital. And the WVRC recently moved to the Community Center in the former Langley Middle School building. “There’s more exposure there, and a synergy with other groups in the building,” Canfield said. “It’s on a bus line, making it easier for

vets without transportation, plus it can attract walk-in traffic.”

ing program,” he said. Sawyers has worked on a veterans pic-

In April, two benefit concerts were held at Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Freeland. The cabaret, directed by Ken Merrill, featured songs from Broadway and the Great American Songbook. Donations went toward the matching grant from Island Herb.

“But we see very few veterans from recent conflicts,” Canfield said. “Younger vets don’t seem to want to get involved. They’re deployed four or five times and need some assistance coming out. But by that time they’re not interested in anything military.” “We’ve struggled to get the word out,” McCarthy said. “Our challenge is to reach out to the younger vets who may need the resources of our organization.” The Whidbey Veterans Resource Center is at South Whidbey Community Center, 723 Camano Avenue, Room 403 Bldg. C, Langley. More information is available by calling 360-331-8081; email or visit

New volunteers have also come forward. Dana Sawyers, coordinator for Island County Veterans Services, has joined the board of the Whidbey VRC, Canfield said. “She’s a one-person market-


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Veterans band together By JOSEPH SAVIDGE Whidbey News Group

After studying glass blowing at Virginia Commonwealth University, he headed straight to Washington state because of its rich glass-blowing reputation. While exploring Seattle, he found a free place to stay for a couple months here on Whidbey and has remained for 20 years.

Bands and big egos often exist side-by-side until their dying day. Such is not the case for local rock-and-roll band Mylo, whose existence will someday end in an accumulated pile of laughter. Lead singer and bass guitarist Donald Singleton, drummer Randy Wolfe and guitarist Max LeMay all agree that while Mylo performs unique and entertaining live shows, they have a lighthearted approach to practicing and songwriting.

He never left after his first month of meeting glassblowers, metalworkers, painters, musicians, artists, farmers, potters, chainsaw carvers, construction workers and Nichols Bros. employees. He currently works for Island Glass.

“We never took it real seriously,” said LeMay. “We still don’t. We just do it for love and fun.” The band practices every Friday in Wolfe’s basement, but not before meeting at either Bailey’s Corner Store or neighboring Ogre Brewery for beers. Wolfe and LeMay met randomly one night at Bailey’s in mid-2016. They discovered a mutual love for hardcore metal music and also learned they’d both served in the Navy. That very night the two played Tom Petty covers and jammed in Wolfe’s basement. LeMay’s wife Anita eventually began the Tuesday Open Jam Nights at Bailey’s Corner Store. Each week brought in a load of musicians, including Singleton, who clicked with LeMay and Wolfe. Their first show in November of 2016 was as a

Photo by Joseph Savidge for the South Whidbey Record

Lead singer and bass guitarist Donald Singleton (center), drummer Randy Wolfe and guitarist Max LeMay of the band Mylo practice for upcoming performances.

five-piece band, but their keyboardist soon quit, followed by their then-lead singer three weeks before a February show. Singleton stepped into the lead-vocal spot and Mylo became the trio’s new name. Since then, Mylo has played live exclusively on Whidbey Island every four to six weeks, sometimes even turning down gigs to keep from overplaying local venues. Wolfe cited Singleton as the group’s unspoken leader, saying, “Donald’s definitely the leader of the pack, but he’s so nonchalant about stuff.” There isn’t a musical idea they won’t try out, and all agree that if it works it works,

and if it doesn’t, it might someday. Singleton said it’s the first time out of six or seven bands he’s joined when, “nobody says, ‘no, I don’t want to play that’.” From Bob Marley to Black Sabbath, and from Phish to The Dead Kennedy’s, no genre is off-limits. “We’re not afraid to go hard rock, but we like melody,” said Singleton. Although they each keep busy through the week with full-time jobs, song ideas keep coming. “We’re still writing. We wrote a song last weekend,”

said LeMay. Singleton said it’s a rare quality for such busy people to stay so dedicated and inspired. “They always show up with something they’ve been working on all week,” he said. LeMay, 25, works as a marine technician for Nichols Brothers Boat Builders after being stationed in Oak Harbor during his four years in the Navy. Born into a musical family, he and his sister Molly were both named after Beatles’ songs. “My parents are Beatles nerds,” he said with a laugh. Wolfe, 31, hails from Granite Falls but spent five

years in the Navy stationed in San Diego and later Oak Harbor for two more years. He kept a drum set aboard his ship, shuffling it aside and finding new storage places for it when it was time for inspections or to prepare and build rockets for aircrafts. He now refuels jets in Oak Harbor. Singleton, 49, is the veteran musician of the group, having studied multiple woodwind instruments in his youth and now the bass guitar for the last 10 years. “Every time I listen to a song, that’s where my mind goes, that rhythm, bass part of it,” he said.


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With such tight ties, it’s no wonder that each member can change the flow of their music with a single look. When one is lost, the others pick him up. “If I get off, I turn to them and they’re always there,” said LeMay. Wolfe agreed, admitting that he’ll send looks meant to get Donald or Max to crack up and have even more fun onstage. “We kind of pass the conversation around,” said Wolfe. “We naturally let that conversation play out.” Mylo can be found playing June 16 at the Machine Shop in Langley.




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USS George Washington and USS George H. W. Bush mourn the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush On July 21, 1990, Barbara Bush broke a ceremonial bottle of champagne over the bow of the Navy’s newest nuclearpowered aircraft carrier, USS George Washington (CVN 73), officially christening the ship. In April, the crew of CVN73 mourned the passing of their ship’s sponsor and former First Lady of the United States. “It was our privilege to have Mrs. Barbara Bush as the ship’s sponsor for the nation’s finest aircraft carrier. Her legacy will be long remembered by those who have served and will serve aboard USS George Washington. We will always

remember her with the honor and distinction that her life’s service to our country embodied,” said Captain Glenn Jamison, commanding officer of USS George Washington. USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) is named in honor of the 41st President of the United States and Mrs. Bush’s husband. Since CVN-77 joined the fleet in 2009, the crew of the aircraft carrier have enjoyed a strong relationship with the Bush family. Like their shipmates aboard USS George Washington, the crew of USS George H.W. Bush is saddened by the loss of the spouse of their namesake.

in mourning the passing of a truly remarkable person, Mrs. Barbara Bush. A strong and compassionate First Lady, a devoted matriarch and champion of literacy, she graced our deckplates on multiple occasions and treated all who served aboard USS George H. W. Bush like her own family,” said Captain Sean Bailey, commanding officer of USS George H.W. Bush. “As we reflect on her inspirational life and many achievements, we endeavor to proudly carry her legacy and her enduring example of devotion to family aboard our ship. She will be truly missed.” As the first commanding

“Today we join the world

officer to take newly commissioned USS George H. W. Bush to sea in 2009, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller forged a close relationship with President and Mrs. Bush. Today, as the commander of Naval Air Forces, he fondly recalls Mrs. Bush’s love and devotion to the ship and the Navy. “For those of us who have had the privilege of serving onboard the ship that bears her husband’s name - Mrs. Bush was a source of inspiration. She impacted lives around the world through her advocacy of literacy and she impacted the lives of USS George H.W. Bush sailors and their families

in much the same way. Her sharp wit, humor and sincere love for those who served on her ‘favorite’ ship was clearly apparent. During her visits to the ship, she enjoyed meeting sailors and their families. During one at-sea period, I’ll never forget her donning a chef’s hat and handing out cookies, with a big smile and kind message to each sailor she met. And when at a literacy event attended by CVN-77 sailors and spouses in Washington, D.C., as soon as she saw sailors enter the room in their dress whites, she stopped what she was doing, proclaimed ‘The Navy’s here!’ and greeted them all with joy — making us feel very special.

She was the one who was special and she is loved by many people worldwide, whether they were close friends or just those who admired her actions and deeds. She will be missed by many, including those who have served, and will serve, on a ship that proudly honors the Bush name, USS George H.W. Bush.” Today, the American flag flying above both USS George Washington and USS George H.W. Bush are at half-mast in remembrance of the former First Lady. Those flags will remain at half-mast until Mrs. Bush is laid to rest where they will then be presented to the Bush family.

Naval Magazine Indian Island earns safety award PORT HADLOCK, Wash. —- Naval Magazine Indian Island (NAVMAG) has earned the Chief of Naval Operations Shore Safety Award for Small Industrial Installation for fiscal year 2017. “The receipt of these prestigious awards is well deserved and a true reflection of the professionalism and commitment to safety displayed by all installation personnel,” said Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, Commander, Naval Installations Command. “Your leadership played an essential role in the performance of your teams and in

the recognition afforded by these CNO selections. Please pass a BRAVO ZULU to all your outstanding sailors and civilians.” NAVMAG supported 27 ship evolutions with 168 days of ordnance operations without incident in FY 2017. “NAVMAG enables warfighting by providing accurate, safe and efficient ordnance support to the fleet and other services,” said Cmdr. Rocky Pulley, NAVMAG Commanding Officer. “We enable the fleet to be ready by ensuring all requisitions for ammunition support are fully

met whenever we are called upon with ready-for-issue ammunition.” Indian Island has an established policy to ensure hazard identification and risk management imbedded in its workplace culture. The commander’s safety policy gives explicit stop-work authority to any employee who witnesses an unsafe condition. Because of the safety policy, there have been zero military on-duty mishaps in three years and no reportable government motor vehicle mishaps within that timeframe. Additionally, the command maintains a 99 percent current safety and health

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training compliance rate. NAVMAG Fire and Emergency Services firefighters created a Peer Fitness Trainer program which has reduced workout injuries by 50 percent since 2016. “Our Peer Fitness Trainers (PFT) conduct an annual assessment of our firefighter’s physical fitness,” said David Michaelsen, Assistant Chief Battalion Two, Navy Region Northwest Fire and Emergency Services. “PFTs can develop a workout plan depending on the firefighter’s personal goals.” The PFTs are trained and certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). PFTs help their fellow firefighters workout safely. Physical fitness is an workday requirement for Navy

firefighters. “Our firefighters tended to work out too intensely,” Assistant Chief Michaelsen said. “Now we incorporate proper technique, safe stretching, and nutrition planning. As a result, our injuries are significantly reduced.” The installation commander leads an aggressive inspection program focusing on hazard identification in the workplace. There is also an employee driven safety committee which meets quarterly to discuss safety issues and employee concerns. NAVMAG was also awarded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Voluntar y Protection Program Star status in 2014 and 2017 for safety and health management sustained low injury rates.

The installation hosted a VPP Star Recertification ceremony in March. “Our people take care of one another,” said Shawn Seiber, NAVMAG’s safety and occupational health specialist. “When we are loading and unloading ships at the pier, there are plenty of opportunities for someone to get hurt. The employees see safety as a priority and a positive.” The installation is the Navy’s largest West Coast ordnance port and one of only two West Coast deep-water container-capable ports in support of Pacific Command contingency operations. Nearly 170 personnel work daily at NAVMAG.

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Whidbey Crosswind, April 27, 2018  

April 27, 2018 edition of the Whidbey Crosswind

Whidbey Crosswind, April 27, 2018  

April 27, 2018 edition of the Whidbey Crosswind