Staff SGT Donald Wayne West, Jr., enlisted in the United States Army National Guard on September 11, 2001. As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Company A of the 150th Combat Engineers served active duty Aug 29, 2004, until Dec 30, 2005. SSGT West returned to college in January, 2006. He married Lauren Ritchie June 9, 2006, at Seaside, Fla., and they have three children. SSGT West completed military service at Camp Minden, LA on Aug 23, 2009.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Day 19 - The Faces of Victory

For obvious reasons, we cannot share many details of this past weekend, most of which concerned the movements of Wayne's company. We are awaiting word of his safe arrival somewhere in western Iraq.

What we can share are the memories of the historical election day our solidiers helped to bring about.

Share this compelling look at the faces of victory:

Saturday, January 29, 2005

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. Malachi 4:2

 Posted by Hello

Map of Iraq and surrounding areas. Posted by Hello

Friday, January 28, 2005

"Lauren in battlegear" doesn't even sound right in print. Posted by Hello

According to Wayne, "the most important place in the whole camp, the phone center!" Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Day 15 - Love, Lasagna and Laughter

I wanted you to know
That I love the way you laugh
I wanna hold you high and steal your pain away
I keep your photograph
And I know it serves me well
I wanna hold you high and steal your pain

Because I’m broken when I’m lonesome
And I don’t feel right when you’re gone away

You’ve gone away
You don't feel me here, anymore
-Partial lyrics from "Broken," by Evanescense

Listening to a popular song Lauren burned on a CD had put Wayne in a more introspective mood than usual.

“My journal has three parts,” he began. “The first is just everyday stuff, like what we’re doing. Our routine, if there is one. The second is personal, where I keep my heart…my thoughts about Lauren. Earlier today, I missed her so much I really had to preach to myself to get back on track. The third part is for business. I’m recording thoughts how to apply ideas from the book I’m reading.”

And what book is the solitary soldier reading these days? Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Wayne reported one of the best influences on the base is the culinary landscape.

“In the fast food department, we’ve got a Subway, a Nathan’s (famous for Coney Island style hotdogs), a Burger King and a coffee shop. As you can imagine, they’re all terribly expensive. After the first couple of visits, I decided to save my money and eat the D-FAC food, which is actually quite good.”

“Every day, they serve a substantial entrée,” he continued, “like baked chicken, spaghetti with meatballs, beef stroganoff or lasagna. There’s also a variety of vegetables, a salad and fruit bar, plus a dessert bar. We have a full selection of soft drinks, as well as all kinds of juices, and cereal and milk for days!”

Before we hung up, we tried to figure out why Wayne was having trouble sending pictures as attachments to his emails.

“Was there an important picture you wanted me to see?” I inquired, wondering what he would choose as the first shot to send home.

“Oh, I didn’t take it here,” he replied, beginning to chuckle. “It’s one we took at Dad’s house during Christmas. Three of us guys were standing with our arms around each other’s shoulders. Dad, with his belly, on one end. Papa Huey, with his belly, in the middle. And me, with my Christmas belly, on the other end. We didn’t plan it that way. But when I looked at the picture, I tagged us with the caption, ‘Huckabellies!’”

That was the laugh I had been waiting to hear.

Another view of the in-flight parade staged by Continental attendants on the flight to Germany. Posted by Hello

Our own Continental Ambassador, showering the troops with stars and cookies! Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Day 11 - Cold and Wet West

“What are the two things I hate in combination worse than anything else?!” Wayne snapped during the first few seconds of our phone conversation this afternoon. “You’re right! COLD and WET! I'm telling you, this is one confused desert over here! Whoever heard of a desert being cold and wet?!”

Last night, as part of a TCN (“Third Country Nationals”) detail, Wayne and one other soldier drove two hummers to escort five 18-wheelers loaded with food and two more flatbed trucks carrying MRE’s (meals, ready to eat) to the D-FAC (pronounced dee-fack for “dining facility).

“These hummers had no roof,” he explained, “only a windshield and wiper blades. We sat outside in the cold wind and rain from 8:00 this morning until 6:30 tonight. And if that weren’t bad enough, I discovered our tent has a leak, just over my cot. About the same time I saw a huge puddle of water on my sleeping bag, one of my buddies told me he had used one of my shower shoes to kill the rat that ran out from under my cot. It’s been a long day.”

Wayne had called home at midnight, his time.

“The best part about staying up this late is the workout area isn’t very crowded, and you can get a hot shower,” he sighed. “We have these two trailers with 16 individual showers in each one, which is definitely better than group showers. Behind each trailer is a huge water tank. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough hot water to go around in the mornings. And you know what I hate most…COLD and WET!”

Friday, January 21, 2005

Lauren and Wayne at Camp Shelby, Jan 04. Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Day Nine - Let the River Flow

The automatic clock calculator I carry in my head these days set off an alarm when Lauren phoned tonight, sobbing she had missed a call from Wayne at 4:14 in the morning, his time.

“I’ve had that darn phone attached to my hip all day. I even have it on in class just in case he calls,” she whined. “I put it down when I walked down stairs to wash a load of clothes and missed the call!” She paused. “ Why do you think he would be calling so early in the morning? He usually calls around his supper time.”

After we prayed, I encouraged her to send Wayne an email, thinking if he couldn’t reach her by phone, he might try to send her a message. Every time I stopped talking, I could hear the swoosh! swoosh! of blood marching to the beat of adrenaline pumping through my veins. Yea, why would he be calling so early in the morning?

Marshaling a mind wandering toward the busy street of imagination takes tough love turned inward. Wrestling emotions can be even trickier. My friend, Clarice Fluitt, uses the analogy of a river to remind me of similar lessons I’ve learned teaching children through the years.

“Unbridled affection or emotion is like a river without banks, flooding surrounding areas and causing destruction in its path,” she explains. “First of all, a river always flows away from a source. When properly channeled, the flow can be harnessed to produce power. Emotions are the same way. Without boundaries, they can mess up your life. Properly channeled, especially in prayer, they produce incredible power in the Spirit realm.”

Most of the time, I do pretty well. Occasionally, I get emotionally ambushed.
Like yesterday when I walked into a downtown jewelry store to discuss advertising business. Just inside the door, the Adagio movement from Beethoven’s Pathetique piano sonata immediately wrapped me in a sonorous blanket of beauty. Every rubato reamed my tear ducts until I soon stood soaking in my own salt bath, staring at the sales staff, startled even more than I at the sudden shower. But that was yesterday.

No sooner than I put my hands on the computer keyboard to record Lauren’s words, Wayne called here.

Although the advance team of higher-ranking officers has already left the base, Wayne explained the other soldiers are working round the clock up-armoring equipment for their mission. He called, exhausted at 4:15 a.m., because he had worked all night welding heavy metal plates in place of soft side doors on their Humvees.

“Newer vehicles come factory equipped with Kevlar-covered seats made from the same stuff as our helmets. That one thing could literally save our life if we run over an IED (improvised explosive device).”

What else does a tired soldier say?

“Communication basically sucks,” he announced flatly. “It gets pretty frustrating when one person says ‘do this,’ and another person says ‘do that.’ That’s what you and all your prayer buddies can pray for…unity of purpose and clear communication.”

Yes, sir.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Day Eight - Prayer Request for Transportation of Election Machines in Iraq

(We received this email request for prayer tonight. Having checked our favorite urban legend debunking site,, we find no reports, so we pass it along.)


Rev. Lyle Shackelford is a member of Dublin Baptist Church in Dublin, OH.

As a transportation battalion, my unit will be delivering the voting machines and the ballots to villages and cities throughout Iraq during the upcoming elections. (January 30/31) Our convoys are prime targets for the insurgents because they do not want the equipment to arrive at the polling stations nor do they want the local Iraqi citizens to have the chance to vote; timely delivery must occur so that the elections occur. Encourage your friends and family members and those within our churches to pray specifically for the electoral process.

Historically, the previous totalitarian regime would not allow individual citizens to vote. Democracy will not be realized in Iraq if intelligent and competent officials are not elected to those strategic leadership positions within the emerging government; freedom will not have an opportunity to ring throughout this country if the voting process fails.

Announce this prayer request to your contacts throughout your churches,
neighborhoods, and places of business. Those with leadership roles within the local church post this message in as many newsletters and bulletins as possible. There is unlimited potential for God's presence in this process but if we do not pray then our enemy will prevail (See Ephesians 6:10-17) A prayer vigil prior to the end of the month may be an innovative opportunity for those within your sphere of influence to pray.

This is a political battle that needs spiritual intervention. A powerful story about God's intervention in the lives of David's mighty men is recorded in 2 Samuel 23:8-33. David and his warriors were victorious because of God's intervention. We want to overcome those who would stand in the way of freedom. David's mighty men triumphed over incredible odds and stood their ground and were victorious over the enemies of Israel.(Iraqi insurgents' vs God's praying people). They don't stand a chance.

I will pray with my soldiers before they leave on their convoys and move outside our installation gates here at Tallil. My soldiers are at the nerve center of the logistic operation to deliver the voting machines and election ballots. They will be driving to and entering the arena of the enemy. This is not a game for them it is a historical mission that is extremely dangerous. No voting machines or ballots. No elections. Your prayer support and God's intervention are needed to give democracy a chance in this war torn country. Thank you for reading this e-mail.

Please give this e-mail a wide dissemination. Thank you for your prayer
support for me and my family. Stand firm in your battles.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Day Six - Prayers

“I never knew exactly what people mean when they say, ‘I can feel your prayers,’ until now,” Wayne said at the conclusion of our ten-minute conversation this morning. “I am so comfortable here, so at peace…It’s hard to explain any other way than I really feel the prayers of everybody praying for me. Please ask them to keep it up. It makes a big difference.”

The troops had been off base for 11 hours, having made a trek to the port to pick up supplies. When they returned, Wayne ate breakfast and then slept until noon.

When we talked, it was 4:30 p.m. his time. He was about to go work out before supper. If the rain stops, he plans to take his laptop to the computer center to test out the wireless connectivity.

Temperatures are hovering in the 60’s during the day and dropping to the low 40’s or less at night.

Other than that, Wayne talked to Lauren this morning, and is thrilled to hear his internet business is growing, even while he’s away.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Day Three - The First 48 Hours

The 312 Chicago area code on my caller ID at 8:04 Friday morning faked me out until I heard Wayne’s familiar bell-curve “HEYYYYYY!” from halfway around the world.

Squealing like the tires on a teenager’s car, I lurched to the list of questions parked on my desk.

“How was the trip over?” I panted.

Wayne’s instant laugh clued me.

“You’re gonna love this,” he started, smiles wiggling through the phone line. “We flew Continental on a 777 aircraft. As soon as I got on the plane, I talked to the pilots who confirmed we would be flying over Paris. Immediately, I asked the flight attendants to wake me to make sure I didn’t miss seeing the Eiffel tower lit up at night.”

“Now, these were not ordinary flight attendants,” he continued, prepping me for the lineup. “First, there was the other-than-American-Latino-type bowed-up dude. Dark, slicked-back hair. Dark eyes. Great smile. Next, there was the GQ African American guy. Polished. Articulate. Then, there was the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy dude. Short. Terrible Hair. After that, came the red-headed Sex in the City chick. Loud. Obnoxious. And finally, what we called ‘The Gossip Girls.’ We could hear them ‘pss, pss, pss’ in the galley, then watch them come back out, acting all smooth, like nothing was going on.”

Wayne fell asleep in the first-class section with his tray table still waiting to be cleared after in-flight snacks. Unfortunately, the flight attendants threw away his retainer along with the other trash! He woke up when the pilots announced they were flying over Paris, not even thinking about the missing retainer.

“Paris is beautiful at night,” he recalled. “Right after that is when the flight attendants asked if I wanted to be on parade. Knowing I wasn’t sure exactly what they were asking, they showed me a video of an on-board performance they had staged on another flight. Since I’m a bit of a showboat, I agreed.”

“First, they wrapped me in a white sheet, like a toga, and put a cape around my shoulders,” he snickered. “Then, they put a crown of stars on my head. Across my chest, they pinned a banner that read, ‘God Bless America.’ After they handed me a bag of star-shaped confetti and a box of individually wrapped Milano cookies, I climbed on top of the serving cart.”

“Two first sergeants were recruited to push the cart up the aisle and sing ‘God Bless America’ while I showered the soldiers with stars and cookies,” he continued. “It was a riot!!”

We laughed until our sides hurt, which was good for both of us, especially since he had called Lauren twice before he made his first call home. (Smile!)

In other news, Wayne said the area is secure enough, they can walk around without Kevlar. They are sleeping in tents, which are well heated. The food is good, all three meals, plus an optional meal at midnight for those who either can’t sleep or who might have missed an earlier meal.

He described other tents, too. One is outfitted as a workout area. Another contains 24 telephones. A third is dedicated for internet use at $5 per hour.

We couldn’t discuss where he will be going at the end of January.

We did determine the ATT international phone calling cards purchased online from the military exchange* are the most cost efficient, averaging only 28 cents/minute compared with up to 40 cents/minute for similar cards purchased at retail. For a more thorough explanation, or to purchase the card, go to Special pricing through Valentine’s Day.

What a great way to start the weekend.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Day One - The Eagle Flies

Earlier in the evening, I worried when Wayne called from the bus saying he had mistakenly put his carry-on bag on the 18-wheeler hauling priority bags to be loaded on the plane headed for Germany. The missing bag was the one with the laptop, camera and GPS. The one that wasn't locked.

It was good Wayne and I had a "situation" to discuss, because I had just gotten off the phone with Lauren, Wayne’s fianceé, who had said her final good-byes a few minutes earlier. Finally able to release her emotions, we cried together and shared imaginary hugs as she drove out the gate from Camp Shelby toward Jackson to spend the night with my brother Blair and his family.

When the phone rang at 2:30 a.m., I answered in my peppiest Mama voice, probably sounding a whole lot like my own mother. Wayne had quietly settled into his first-class seat, earned by his having volunteered for baggage detail. Yes, he had found the missing bag, and stowed it safely in the overhead compartment for the intercontinental flight.

Suddenly, all background noise vanished except the ding, ding signaling passengers to prepare for takeoff.

"We're starting to move, Mom," he whispered. "I've got to go now."

A lifetime passed the next second as I pictured that planeload of 200 soldiers sitting in a dark plane in the middle of the runway in the middle of the night.

Forcing a smile to help hold back the tears, I chirped, "I love you." Next to me in bed, Myron waved three fingers in the air...our family's silent signal, saying 'I love you.'

"I love you, too, Mom," Wayne answered confidently.

I just couldn't say goodbye.

We just said, "Until."