LANGLEY, Island County — Orrin Gorman McClellan grew up among the alder and cedar that cover his family’s 11-acre homestead on Whidbey Island. He relished painting, music and acting, playing the star role of Toad in a local production of “The Wind in the Willows.”
McClellan seemed an unlikely Army recruit. But in the post-9/11 world, he responded to talk of honor, service and camaraderie. After graduating from high school, without informing his parents, McClellan signed up for three years of active duty.
He served in Afghanistan, where he lost friends to enemy bullets, picked up the body parts of blown-up soldiers and wrestled with the emotions unleashed by combat missions.
“Have you ever felt that each word you say brings you further away from explaining yourself,” he wrote in an April 30, 2005, poem in a computer journal. “Everything you create puts a sour taste in your mouth and every action you take burns you with shame.”
In the fall of 2006, McClellan left the Army and came back to his Western Washington island and a strong support network eager to help him rebuild his life. But family and friends were not enough to save him.
This year, on May 18, McClellan took his life with a handgun.