— by Lin McNulty —
On Jan. 27 of this year, San Juan County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a request to check on the welfare of an Iraq War veteran on Orcas Island. The call came in at 11:10 a.m. on a Friday morning.
The deputy arriving on the scene contacted a resident of the home and discovered that the 36-year-old male had been drinking all night. The floor of the house was covered in blood and there was a knife sticking out of the wall. It was believed that the subject was currently parked at Moran State Park.
Deputies, while responding to Moran, saw the vehicle headed in the opposite direction on Olga Road. They immediately turned in pursuit, stopping the car further north on Olga Road.
Because of the potential danger in approaching the subject, who was believed to be armed, as well as intoxicated, additional deputies were called out to respond, including deputies from other islands and the Sheriff, himself. Orcas Fire set up roadblocks north and south of the deputies’ position to help secure the scene.
Deputies were not able to see into the vehicle and received no response to their communication attempts. The traffic stop resulted in a three-hour standoff, that ended when the man was eventually taken into custody, treated at the scene for injuries, and transported for further evaluation.
In steps Stephanie Wright: Reading about that incident prompted islander Stephanie Wright, herself a veteran of three tours in Afghanistan, to do something. “There is nothing on island just for vets,” she says. “Nobody else gets it.” It took her five seconds, she reflects, to set up a Facebook page for “Orcas Island Vets as a forum for any island war veteran to rant, rave, vent, or to know that they just have a group of people who have been there and done that. A support group for island vets… you need someone to talk to, we are here for you…. no judgment, no ridicule, just like-minded people who have each others backs…”
So far, 22 vets have joined the Facebook page, and get-togethers are in the process of being arranged.
This entire situation, had it played out in a different community, might have ended less peacefully. We read such tragic headlines weekly. This is an opportunity to recognize and acknowledge our deputies’ training, professionalism, and compassion that they were able to bring about a level-headed resolution for this man, as well as for the Orcas population, and themselves.
And a credit to islanders like Wright, who recognized a need and took action to fill it.
Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255, Press 1. Text to 838255