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.

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.