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.

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.