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, May 02, 2005

Day 105 - Cards, Leaves and Fleas

A Mother's Day card, addressed to "My Momma", arrived while I was out of town on business over the weekend. Not only did I cry when I saw the familiar script of Wayne's handwriting, but I also understood again how important "real" mail is in comparison to email. (No, I haven't opened the card yet.)

Another mother, Tammy Vinzant, tells a great inside story how the cards got to our soldiers:

Around Valentine's Day my friend Shelia Biffle and I were talking about how the soldiers had no way to get Mother's Day cards and wouldn't it be nice if we could get someone to donate some. So Shelia took the ball and ran with it. She called companies such as American Greetings and Hallmark, who did not give her the time of day. She called several others, too, to no avail. Then she contacted Paramount Card Co, in Rhode Island. The guy she talked to was former military and asked her how many she needed. Instead of asking for just enough for the soldiers from the 2/198th, she asked for 3500...enough for every soldier in the Brigade. Within just a couple of days, he called saying he had sent 3900 cards and all 7 boxes were on the way! She mailed them to the BTB and asked my husband to send them out. I'm so sorry the note telling the soldiers where they were from was not in it, but just glad the guys got them.

Our special thanks to Mr. Howie Lord at Paramount for his generous help!

Paramount Cards, headquartered in Pawtucket, RI, and established in 1906, is America's oldest and third largest greeting card company. Through its Premier Greetings division it is a value leader in card, party, drugstore and specialty stores. For more, visit

P.S. In the Dallas airport, hundreds of soldiers were coming home for their 2-week leaves. American Airlines was especially generous, allowing the soldiers to use the Admiral's Room, serving them free adult beverages, letting them board and deplane first, and putting them in first class seating when available.

Throughout the airport, people cheered when groups in uniform walked by. Passengers clapped when the soldiers got off the plane.

On the leg from Dallas to Albuquerque, I had every intention of sleeping, until I realized my seat was between two soldiers flying home to their families.

One soldier grinned and said, "Wow! I've never been kissed by so many old ladies in my life!"

I guess there's a whole lotta Momma in all of us!

If you're not familiar with SFC Kevin Kelly's (almost) Daily Online Journal, here's a sample of his humorous, informative insight into life on the base where Wayne is stationed. (

I think we have finally seen the sand fleas starting to hatch. Everyone's legs and arms are starting to itch and have round bites on them. Not like a mosquito, these things just keep itching. Think I'll try the flea collar tomorrow and see if it helps any. Some people swear by them. While messing around with the satellite dish 2 days ago, I saw my first REAL Camel Spider. They can move pretty fast, but not as big as some of the pictures that have been seen on the internet. Someone was walking down the road the other day and he said he saw a snake on the road and he started walking away and the snake passed him. He took off in another direction. And I've already told you about the flies. We have got all kinds of pets here. You'll never hear me complain about some mosquitoes anymore. If anyone one would like, I'm sure we could collect some and send them home to you. Make for wonderful bed mates along with all the dirt and dust.

We have a guy that is from C Co. that is staying with us in our sleep area until he can get back down to (his base). He walked in our chow hall today and said, "Man, ya'll weren't joking when you said ya'll have bad chow." I busted out laughing and just said "Welcome to (our base)!" I think he kept looking for the ice cream bar and the short order line. We told him the short order line was Vienna Sausages and crackers or potted meat and crackers, and that was in our tent. I don't think he wanted our menu. He just laughed and said he knew what we were talking about with the food and phones now.
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