Orrin Gorman McClellan at the end of his deployment in April 2006 (Photo provided)

Orrin Gorman McClellan at the end of his deployment in April 2006 (Photo provided)

Parents honor a son wounded by war

This year, when Judith Gorman and Perry McClellan remember their son on the day he died in his Langley home, they’ll have a gift for him — a book titled, “A Soldier’s Journal, Last Supper to No Goodbye.”

It’s the story of a young man who went off in an Army uniform to Afghanistan, only to return and lose his own war on his home turf, Whidbey Island.

It’s Orrin’s own story, the one he kept in a journal, along with poems and photographs. One excerpt reads:

May 21, 2005

IED injures 4.

3 will live.

2 will keep their legs.

we go where no one’s been

we look for what others run from

we fight when everyone else hides.

It is every soldier’s story, veterans have told Orrin’s parents.

They hope their son’s journal — published exactly as he wrote it — helps veterans, and their families, who ache to understand the emotional toll of war.

“He’d always kept a journal, since he was five years old,” said Judith Gorman. “We wish to honor him through the process of assisting his journal in reaching others.”

Judith Gorman is scheduled to read from the book at 2 p.m., Wednesday, May 15 at Freeland Library. Copies of the book, published last year, will be for sale; profits go to the couple’s continuing fight to help heal veterans of war.

Orrin and his parents were a guiding force behind the founding of the Whidbey Veterans Resource Center in 2009, located at the South Whidbey Community Center. It’s expanded greatly in a decade’s time and now offers professional mental health counseling, support groups and free weekly shuttle service to get veterans to medical appointments in Seattle.

“Orrin wanted support and help at home, in his own community,” his mother said. “There was none. ‘Start something, Mom. Here,’ he told me.

“That was our motivation. His pain.”

Suffering from the invisible wounds of concussions, post traumatic stress disorder, nervous system injuries and nightmares, Orrin sought help at Seattle’s VA hospitals and clinics. But he grew tired of both the fight of his flashbacks and the fight to get nearby help, his parents write in the book’s preface.

“This book illustrates one young soldier’s struggle to hold onto his humanity and be true to his soul while doing his job well in wartime,” it states. “It is also about a soldier’s struggle coming home to a world that would never seem normal to him once he had learned the terrible secrets of war.”

Despite the recent spotlight on the tragic self-afflicted endings of so many of America’s warriors, 22 veterans die by suicide every day.

Although surrounded by supportive family, friends, a loving fiancee and the natural wilderness of Whidbey, Orrin couldn’t quiet his mind or still the physical reflexes he learned in combat training and relied on to survive in Afghanistan.

On May 18, 2010 — like so many soldiers before him and so many after him — Orrin Gorman McClellan turned his own gun on himself.

He was 25.

— Judith Gorman is scheduled to give a presentation at 2 p.m., Wednesday, May 15 at Freeland Library, 5495 Harbor Ave., Freeland.

— For more information or to order the book, “A Soldier’s Journal: Last Supper to No Goodbye,” see www.asoldiersjournal.org

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