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, February 10, 2005

Day 29 - Take a Knee, Drink Water and Pull Security

We’ve received comments from several soldiers the last few days. This one is from a father in our church who has nearly completed his year with the Guard in Iraq:

It's strange...seems like every time I write I start off with "it's strange"...but war is strange (thank God). I couldn't imagine one of my children being here. Yet it's okay for me to be here...because "I know what I'm doing"!

Anyway, I was hoping Wayne would not be initiated so soon, but I guess it's best. I remember all too well...

...We had parked in the gravel lot outside the "In-processing" building at a certain place. I had just finished eating an MRE, as had my men. Suddenly, we heard an explosion and saw a plume of smoke about 100 meters in the direction of 4:00 as you face the entrance.

"Hmmm, that was kind of close," I thought to myself. Just then, a second one landed. This time, I heard the casing crack and actually saw the beginning of the was that close! That's when I figured it was for real!

I ran to my HMMWV to grab my body armor as I yelled to the men to get their "shit" on. (It just doesn't convey the same feeling without the graphic language.) Three more landed before I could get everyone inside the building to wait out the attack.

Long story short: About 12 mortar rounds landed within 100 meters of us. We all escaped injury, but the attack injured over 100 prisoners and killed more than 20.

When I returned to my FOB and my room I wrote to my two youngest children, asking them to pray that we could catch the bad guys. I intended to write to all four children, but by the time I got through the first two letters, my eyes were sweating so profusely, the paper became too wet to write on. Besides that, I was so emotional I couldn't think straight. That experience changed me.

I say all this because it is so obvious how close you are to Wayne, and he to you. This is tough to say...but he will have to suck it up and drive on for the next twelve months. I have a strong feeling he will lean heavily on you and his new bride-to-be.

Just be open and honest with him, and encourage him to be open and honest with you. Encourage him to tell you how he REALLY feels when "bad shit" happens. It will help him to deal with it in the future, and to not be cowered by fear. He will be afraid, but there is a difference in being able to go on in spite of the fear versus being stuck by it, unable to move.

I think it has to do with coming to the realization 'when it's your time; it's your time,' and just doing your job until that time comes. It could come just as easily at home in bed, or in a car, or crossing the street, as it can on the battlefield. It's knowing in a whole new way that you belong to God and "your life" isn't "yours." It's His.

All you can really do is take a knee, drink water, and pull security!

Here’s another note from a Louisiana soldier, almost ready for his leave:

Just checked out your web site. It's nice. And your son is right...the phone center IS the most important thing on ANY base. That, plus when the mail comes. It's like Christmas all over again! I guess I'll turn in for the night. Have to be up in about six hours. Will be flying out whenever the weather lets up. Has been raining here for two weeks. Last I was told, this area was about to get the worst storm it has had in 35 years. Well the soon I get to (the next location), the sooner I will see my mom. THAT'S RIGHT...MY MOM. She has been in the active guard for a little over twenty years. And get this...I'm the only child.