Sgt. Phillips Found
Back in December there was a disturbing event. Sgt. Michael Phillips, who lives at 260 New York Avenue and is often posted in his front yard and is known to take walks in the neighborhood, suddenly disappeared. For several days nothing was heard of him and worries grew. How would an older man survive living on the street away from home. Eventually an answer came; he was in a medical facility in Bed-Stuy. With this discovery came the story of what happened. He had become confused and tried to return to a place that had been his home in the past. The current residents were alarmed at someone claiming to live in their home and called the police. The police realized that Michael was disoriented and took him to the medical facility. As Michael had no identification it took a while to figure out where he lived, but eventually he provided the information, and the staff contacted his son who came and got him. On the morning of January 25, I encountered one of Phillips' sons who told me that he is in good health and seems to be his old self. Here we spread word of this happy return for those who may not have heard about it. Another chapter in Phillips' varied life has been written.
– John DeWind
Sgt. Philips Profile
On the corner of New York Avenue and St. Johns Place one often sees a man sitting upright in the front yard. He is almost always wearing a visored military cap and a green army jacket. If one draws near, one will see written across the man's chest on the left the word Phillips. This is indeed Sgt. Phillips, long time member of the U.S. Army. A recent interview with Phillips revealed that he was born November 25th, 1947 in Trinidad – so the man is nearly 72. Behind him in his yard hang the flags of Trinidad and St. Vincent (where Phillip's wife came from). Phillip's father was a supervisor at the oil facility at Port Fortin and his mother was a housewife who also took care of her mother. He had four siblings, a brother and three sisters. He got a good education in Trinidad, attending the Egypt Village Government School and he went on to college to study geography, history and English, and he particularly remembers a teacher named Joyce who taught Spanish. He was very athletic playing cricket and soccer, and he says on one occasion he swam all the way from Trinidad to Venezuela. When he was almost grown his parents moved to London and eventually he followed. His first time on an airplane, he flew from Piarco International Airport to Heathrow outside of London. After living in London for awhile, Philips claims he made another amazing swim, this one to Frankfort, Germany with a boat accompanying him. It was in Germany that he first became aware of the military, this at the U.S. Army base there, and this gave him the idea of becoming a soldier.
Back in Trinidad he joined, and he was sent to Fort Dix for basic training, and it was then he was made a cook, using skills he acquired when young in Trinidad. Phillip's army career took him all over the world. Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Germany again, and other places. As he traveled Phillips studied the local cuisines adding more and more recipes to his repertoire. And to this day he visits the local restaurants in Crown Heights to see what they are up to and to give advice.
Phillips is a married man. His wife Wilma is sometimes with him in Brooklyn and sometimes upstate in Geneva. Altogether they have had five children, three boys and two girls. Phillips has had two serious setbacks in his life. First, his daughter Melissa returned to Trinidad when she was 17 and mysteriously died while there. This recent tragedy came on top of another. While he was serving in Vietnam, Phillips was the victim of a grenade attack. The grenade was thrown into his kitchen and the explosion threw shrapnel into his leg, seriously wounding him. For two years he was on his back, unable to walk, but eventually his leg was restored so that today one might encounter Phillips walking around the neighborhood though he still regularly visits Fort Hamilton for treatment. Phillips left the service in the 1990's and he is now retired. He takes pleasure in watching the passing scene on New York Avenue and keeping up-to-date on the local restaurants. He does not mind having a drink now and then and his family is around to help out and keep him company. Also he knows many veterans who stop by and say hello. Phillips has many stories to tell – far more than could be told here. If you stop and chat with him, you will hear some wonderful tales.