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. Their son, Donald Wayne (Trey) West, III, was born March 19, 2007. SSGT West completed military service at Camp Minden, LA on Aug 23, 2009.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Day 126 - One Wrong Turn Leads to a Mother


One cow, left horn hanging down, stares at the American soldiers who have arrived in the Iraqi village of seven houses to search for weapons and insurgents. Anther cow, running in circles, races faster as a woman pounds it with dirt clods.

A three-legged dog barks incessently, tripping and falling each time he runs toward the men.

Ten baby chicks follow dutifully behind their fearless, featherless mother, strutting past the strangers.

"She looked like she'd already been plucked to eat," snickers SFC Kevin Kelly, "except I think she got away."

A herd of 30 sheep run toward Kelly and a local villager, interrupting their conversation.

Dozens of children clamor for not enough candy in the soldiers' pockets.

Kelly says he and his team were preparing to search another group of houses when a mother and her seven year-old son appeared in the doorway to their home.

"They were saying something, but we weren't paying close attention until the father reached down and pulled up his son's gown (I don't know what the gown thing is called). I saw a horrific sight: the little boy had no penis and his bladder was hanging out."

Sensing the young boy's embarrassment, the soldiers pulled the gown back down while they talked through an interpreter with the boy's parents, who explained details of the birth defect.

"After we assured them we would bring a doctor back to the village, they agreed to let us take a picture to show Doc (MAJ) Leewood," Kelly recounts. "I know that this might make my land navigation skills sound bad, but we had actually taken a wrong turn 200 meters before our scheduled stop that day. If we hadn't stopped in that particular village, though, we never would have met Mohammad."

Yesterday, Kelly announced U. S. troops have escorted Mohammad and his father to Baghdad, where the youngster is scheduled for surgery.

"When we took them to the HUMVEE to put them inside, we told the father we hated to do this, but we would have to blindfold him until we got to our base. He said he understood. Still, it felt kind of weird having to use a blindfold while we were helping them; but it was the right thing to do."

"We took them to the aid station (medical tent) at the base to wait for the helicopter," he continues. "I had to go put up my body armor and a few other things before I could go back and check on him. When I got back, people were coming in and out to greet them and to see the boy everyone had been talking about. I brought him a coloring book someone had sent for the kids. SFC Arthur brought him some matchbox cars. Others brought toys, food, Gatorade, food and even money. It was like Christmas for the little boy. We finally ran everyone out to give them a little break. Since it was going to be a while before the helicopter got there, I decided to eat breakfast and go to church first."

After hearing a sermon from Acts 2 on "Living with the Certainty of Christ in Your Life," Kelly returned to check on Mohammad, still waiting for the helicopter to arrive.

"He was eating a sucker and watching The Polar Express on someone's laptop," Kelly shares like a proud uncle. "He would always look up at me and then shy away and look back down. I slid over to him and showed him a picture of my own son. He loved the soccer one. Then I slid back to where I was before to watch the movie with him."

When the helicopter arrived, LTC Robinson greeted Mohammad and his father.

"I handed him his back pack full of little green apples and all the other stuff everyone had given him," Kelly recalls. "He just kind of threw up a hand and waved. That was all the thanks we needed. The bird took off, and our little boy was headed to Baghdad for surgery."

As the helicopter lifted from the ground, SFC Arthur commented, "If that doesn't get to your heart, something is wrong with you."

"I couldn't agree more," Kelly concludes. "I'll let you know more when we hear something. It could be tomorrow or it could be weeks. Thanks for all the prayers, though."

I can only imagine Mohammad's mother, waiting patiently now in the village where U. S. soldiers mysteriously arrived two weeks ago to bring hope and healing to her son.

"Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood--being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2 AMP

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