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, June 30, 2005

Day 163 - One at a Time

Blogger Rusten D. Currie writes from the Sandbox:
We are winning this fight. One shot at a time. One block at a time, one pair of shoes on a child's feet at a time, one vote at a time, one free election at a time.

To a soldier this is simply duty, nothing more. To the Iraqis, this is a gift, paid with the blood of youth, paid for in missed anniversaries, paid for in bitter combat, paid for in the hopes and dreams of Americans being extinguished forever on streets called Haifa, and 60th, in towns called Dora, and Karadda. In a country called Iraq, in a place once called the cradle of civilization.

We are the light by which the new democracy of Iraq will traverse through the darkness. We are Americans!

Read the rest of his weighty words.

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Day 162 - America Supports You

Last night, when President Bush addressed troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, he suggested ways we can show support for our soldiers during Fourth of July celebrations:

“In this time of testing, our troops can know: The American people are behind you. Next week, our nation has an opportunity to make sure that support is felt by every soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, and Marine at every outpost across the world. This Fourth of July, I ask you to find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom -- by flying the flag, sending a letter to our troops in the field, or helping the military family down the street. The Department of Defense has set up a website --America Supports You. You can go there to learn about private efforts in your own community. At this time when we celebrate our freedom, let us stand with the men and women who defend us all.”

Messages like this one from Ronnie Patterson (SFC USA Ret), Hot Springs, AR, can be posted as a comment on this blog and also on the America Supports You web site:

After having served my nation, as you have and will continue to do, for my 21 years of service, I came away with a real sense of pride in the military forces of this nation and of the power of the people we all help to protect and whose freedom we provide. My hat is off to you guys and gals over there in Iraq and Afghanistan. You've got a really tough job to do, and you are doing it with the professionalism and expertise that are the hallmark of the US Military. You are all heroes to us here in the States. Without your dedication and devotion to duty and this nation we (as a nation) could not survive. The community of Hot Springs, AR is a strong supporter of what you folks are doing. The prayers of every church in town (about 100 of them) are with you day and night. God speed to you and may you all return home safely. God Bless you all, and God "has" blessed America with people like you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Day 161 - Prayer for 39th Chaplain

Fellow blogger ArmyWifeToddlerMom has requested prayer for Dr. David McLemore, who recently returned from 18 months in Iraq as a chaplain with the 39th Brigade.

According to Arkansas Baptist News, McLemore was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident June 13. Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Russellville, he currently is in a coma due to head injuries, but doctors are guardedly optimistic about his recovery, according to Al Ray Taylor, the church’s minister of music and college students.

Reports indicate there is blood around McLemore’s brain, but not in the brain. He also suffered a broken leg, a fracture of a vertebrae in his neck, facial lacerations and lost several teeth. Doctors also were concerned about other potential injuries to the spinal cord. McLemore was airlifted to Little Rock’s University of Arkansas Medical Center.

The Russellville pastor was at a standstill on his motorcycle on Highway 64 east of Russellville waiting for a truck to turn when a teenage driver hit him from behind at near highway speed. The impact threw McLemore about 100 feet. His helmet was broken and knocked from his head.

Surgery was performed on his leg June 14 and a tube was inserted in his skull to relieve cranial pressure. He also was placed in a neck brace.

Second Baptist spokesperson Linda Higgins just now told me Pastor McLemore is still in a coma, but his leg is healing well. He does have some congestion in his lungs, and doctors are adjusting his blood sugar, which has been a little elevated recently.

Cards can be sent c/o Second Baptist Church; 1100 N Frankfort Ave, Russellville, 72801. (479) 967-4085.

"No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:37

Monday, June 27, 2005

Day 160 - Bombs Away!

Dixie Sappers are at it again!

Officials announced today that our soldiers of the 150th Engineer Battalion detained 25 suspected terrorists and uncovered five weapons caches during an operation in Ojeer al Sharqi.

Items seized and subsequently destroyed included:
* 573 mortar rounds,
* 37 rockets,
* three 155 mm artillery rounds,
* 14 rocket-propelled grenades,
* 24 land mines, 80 hand grenades,
* 1,000 feet of time fuse,
* 105 projectile fuses,
* 22 cans of small-arms ammunition,
* two 81 mm mortar systems,
* two 70-pound bags of bulk explosive,
* a can of hand grenade fuses,
* an RPG launcher,
* a 40-pound shape charge,
* a Milan antitank missile,
* an SA-7B guided missile, and
* a 14.5 mm anti-aircraft gun.
The 150th is attached to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, a U.S. Army unit assigned to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him." Daniel 2:22

Want more good news from Iraq? Arthur Chrenkoff's post is a must read to find out who said this:
Today I am traveling to Brussels to join representatives of more than 80 governments and institutions in sending a loud and clear message of support for the political transition in Iraq.

A year ago, in Resolution 1546, the U.N. Security Council set out the timetable that Iraq, with the assistance of the United Nations and the international community, was expected to fulfill. The Brussels conference is a chance to reassure the Iraqi people that the international community stands with them in their brave efforts to rebuild their country, and that we recognize how much progress has been made in the face of daunting challenges...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Day 159B - Clear Window into a Muddy Iraq

Today's online news contained this tribute to Wayne from Kathy Spurlock, Executive Editor of The News-Star in Monroe, LA, our home before we moved to Hot Springs, AR.

We blinked, and Memorial Day turned into Flag Day with Independence Day just around the corner.

All this time, I've been meaning to catch up with "Wayne's World." I finally did this week.

Wayne is Sgt. Donald Wayne West Jr. of Monroe, the son of Rebecca McCormick (Becky Bingham from her Neville High School days) and Don West. He's the grandson of Gloria Moore and Maxine West Mills, and nephew of Judge and Mrs. Milton Moore.

And "Wayne's World 2005" is his Web log of experiences while deployed to Iraq. The blog also contains messages, prayers and comments from those of us on the other side of the world.

Wayne has been my local connection to Operation Iraqi Freedom for the past five months, the soldier whose smiling face and sparkling brown eyes I recall when I think of our military serving overseas.

He enlisted in the Army National Guard on Sept. 11, 2001, a young man so powerfully moved by events of that day he was compelled to get involved. His unit, Company A of the 150th Combat Engineers, reported for active duty last August before being sent to Iraq in January.

When he's not soldiering, he's a student at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., and has a beautiful fiance named Lauren Ritchie. But let's get to Iraq.

Wayne's blog is as real as the sandstorms blasting across the desert. The diary, managed and also contributed to by his mother, is part documentary, part letter, part group prayer, part group hug. If you go to the Web site listed above, I promise your heart will be touched.

Those of us who live with the cold front-page news from the front - the kidnappings, ambushes, car bombs and insurgents - can find the humanity of the war in Wayne's World. We laugh at the jokes about the food and Wayne's "bottomless pit" of a stomach, grimace at the photos of the dangerous desert creatures that sometimes turn up in tents and feel the desperate longing of a family that seeks to be reunited.

We find ourselves reciting the 23rd Psalm over a photo of the guys asleep in a barracks, and we find solace for our own wounds in scripture posted by Rebecca to encourage her son.

We see also the hearts of these dedicated Americans as they strive to return some semblance of normal life to this damaged world. In Wayne's World, our soldiers provide health care for children. They have adopted a school. They deliver school supplies sent from home, and worry that there aren't enough backpacks to go around. They notice that no one has shoes, and prompt the families at home to collect shoes. They give out toys and candy and supplies, building relationships and trust in a place there's been little to trust for many years.

At this point, Wayne's family believes he'll be able to come home on leave in August. I will be one of many who give him a great big hug, and try to find the words to thank him for his sacrifice.

It's Americans like Wayne who give real meaning to the holiday we're all about to celebrate - Independence Day.

Call Kathy at 318-362-0261, write her at P.O. Box 1502, Monroe, LA 71210 or e-mail her at .

Thanks, Kathy. I'll re-do my makeup before we leave for church.

 Posted by Hello

Day 159 - Good Morning, Arkansas!

A few days ago, we mentioned SFC Kevin Kelly, who posts an online daily journal from Camp Dogwood.

Today, I think he really wants to know if anybody from Arkansas actually READS his journal. Check out Kelly's tongue-in-cheek jab at Arkansas soldiers at the end of this post:

I had been walking by this one area where soldiers from Arkansas fly an American Flag. The last few days, I noticed the flag was tattered and badly worn. Having gotten a new flag from home, I did a swap for them. I think the Arkansas soldiers thought I was crazy to offer them a brand new flag for an old worn and tattered flag.

The red Engineer flag that flies over our building was also very worn. I swapped out that one with a new one my sister had sent me.

Most of the guys see the ones I took down only as worn flags. I am sending both of them home to be framed and put up in my office. I think it will be pretty nice looking to see these flags matted, framed and hanging on the main wall. One day, I hope to be able to give them to my son, Walker, so he can have something from this war.

After telling them what I planned to do, the Arkansas soldiers said that they were going to get some flags from home and do the same thing. They have an Arkansas flag that is kind of worn, but I told them they were on their own with that flag.

OK, so who wants to volunteer to send flags? Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Day 158 - Messages from 155th Commanding Officers

Earlier this week, we received this video from General Augustus Collins.

Today, we received this message from another 155th Commander:

To the Families and Friends of the 1-155th IN BN (Mississippi

This week, LTC Mohammed (local Iraqi Army Commander) and myself visited with many citizens, business owners, and local officials in the city of Musayyib.

We met initially with LTC Ahmed (Iraqi Police Chief), the Mayor, and the City Council. The local officials, LTC Mohammed, and myself walked through the downtown area visiting with the local citizens and many business owners. LTC Mohammed addressed a group of employees and customers at the local bank and telecommunications center. He told the group that Iraqis should always be grateful to the Americans for removing Saddam from power.

He also told them that Iraqis must take advantage of this opportunity and that they must work together to make the area safe. It was important for the citizens to see their local officials walking side-by-side with Americans. This demonstrates our relationship with the Iraqis, and these officials provide a good example for their citizens to follow.

The fact that these officials and business owners wanted to be seen in public with Americans is a significant event. Six months ago, most officials in this area did not want to be viewed as cooperating with Americans in fear of the insurgents. This event proves that progress is moving forward. It may not be as fast as some would like, but we are taking steps in the right direction.

The security in Musayyib has dramatically improved since January. There were many insurgents residing around the Musayyib area. Today, most of these insurgents have either been captured or left the area. A lot of credit goes to LTC Ahmed and his police force. His police department has done a remarkable job under other-than- ideal conditions. They have suffered several casualties from the insurgents but have remained firm in their pursuit of security. In working with any organization, there are issues, but overall we have had a good relationship with the Musayyib Police Department and are proud of their accomplishments.

Our Mortar Platoon and 2nd Platoon, B Battery, 2/114 Field Artillery Battalion provide us with outstanding indirect fire support. We average about two indirect fire missions a week. Most are illumination missions, which support our nighttime operations.

Our first enemy mortar attack occurred in mid February. Our artillery platoon responded to the attack by firing back with their own indirect fire mission in record time. We let the insurgents know that if they shoot mortars at us, we will quickly respond with overwhelming firepower. Since then, our base camp has had only one other mortar attack.

Fortunately, we had a patrol nearby who captured the two responsible insurgents. Our mortar and artillery platoons train constantly to improve their skills and speed. These soldiers are highly trained and extremely proficient. They love nothing more than making a big boom. They are the major reason why our base camp has experienced minimum mortar and rocket attacks. The insurgents clearly understand the consequences if they choose to attack using one of these methods. The mortar and artillery platoon are an essential part of our Task Force, and we are fortunate to serve with such dedicated soldiers.

Almost fifty percent of our soldiers have had the opportunity to take leave so far. Soldiers will continue to leave periodically throughout each month until the end of October. I do not see an issue with our leave plan, and we are committed to ensure every soldier has this opportunity.

Thank you again for your continued support.

1-155th IN BN, 155th BCT
 Posted by Hello

Friday, June 24, 2005

Day 157 - Back to the Future

1. Metal ice trays with levers
2. Telephone party lines
3. 45 RPM records
4. Soda machines that dispense 6-oz. glass bottle Coca-Cola
5. Tableside jukeboxes
6. Home delivery of milk in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers
7. Butch wax
8. Newsreels before the movie
9. The unholy trinity: Hitler, Mussolini and Franco
10. Eisenhower, Normandy and D-Day
11. Telephone numbers with a word prefix (Fairfax-24617)
12. Peashooters
13. Howdy Doody
14. Candy cigarettes
15. S&H Green Stamps
16. Hi-fi's
17. Wire recorders
18. Mimeograph paper
19. Blue flashbulbs
20. Beanie and Cecil
21. Roller skates with keys
22. Cork popguns
23. Drive-in movies
24. Studebaker and Nash automobiles
25. Wash tub wringers
26. Rotary dial phones

0-5 = You're still young
6-10 = You're getting older
11-15 = Don't tell your age
16-20 = You're older than dirt
Over 20? = Don't go there.

A certain cologne. An old song. A particular color. When you least expect it, nostalgia sneaks up on you like a sneeze!

When the new Batman movie came out last week, we promised Wayne we wouldn't go see it until he comes home. He's a Batman fan from way back. In fact, I still have his tiny cape with matching chest protector and goggles tucked away in a "save-for-the-grandkids" drawer.

Meanwhile, some folks are hedging bets, wondering if the Camero can make a comeback. Somebody else called The Hard-to-Find Grocer will help find the long-lost products you need to make your Nana's favorite family recipes.

Soldier buddies returning from R&R bring are bringing back their own memories of home, making Wayne's wait until his August leave even more agonizing.

When he finally does get here, Wayne has some definite ideas what he wants to see on his plate. Take a look at part of this recent Instant Message conversation:

Wayne West: i dont care what i eat
Wayne West: anything is better then this
rebeccamcbeach1: OK, we'll fix you up with fresh everything.
Wayne West: fresh fruit and orange juice and ice cold whole milk
rebeccamcbeach1: You got it!
Wayne West: i want a sonic drink,
Wayne West: an outback steak,
Wayne West: ...and crawfish.
rebeccamcbeach1: We can handle it!

(Should I feel bad because he didn't ask for any home cooking?)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Day 156B - Do You Hear What I Hear?

Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel asking, "Is This the Way to Amarillo?" Posted by Hello

According to US News, Sen. Hagel thinks ‘we’re losing in Iraq.’

Well, if you think Sen. Hagel is angry, read this post in Who's Your Baghdaddy? by Texas National Guardsman John Upperman, whose unit was activated for deployment to Iraq in August 2004. (Be sure to read the comments, too.)

John’s post also provides a link where to write Senator Upperman.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Day 156 - Cover My World

(Picture of Chow Hall decorations on Memorial Day supplied by SGT Kevin Kelly. Wayne must sit at the first table on the left...Notice the BIG bottle of Tobasco!) Posted by Hello

Many of you recall Northeast Mississippi’s Daily Journal reporter Jennifer Farish and photographer Thomas Wells, who recently spent 30 days in Iraq covering the Mississippi-based 155th Brigade Combat Team. The Daily Journal of War included stories, photos and columns from four bases where Wayne and our other soldiers are deployed.

Coverage of the 155th resumes today, this time from the home front. Jennifer will begin a weekly front-page column about the troops, drawing heavily from ongoing correspondence with soldiers she met in Iraq.

The Daily Journal will devote a full page each month to the 155th, filled with feature stories and photos, soldier profiles and other reader-supplied information. The first monthly page will appear July 4.

Continuing news about the 155th, as well as other major developments in Iraq, will be reported as soon as possible.

“My column, as well as our ongoing coverage, will depend a great deal on what we hear from the folks at home,” says Farish. “Depending on the event, we may also be able to cover support activities at home as they happen.”

To contact Jennifer, send e-mails to or call her at (662) 281-1069.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Day 155 - Pictures from Wayne!

Wayne and SFC Kevin Kelly.

Checked my email with the first cup of coffee this morning and found these two pics!
 Posted by Hello

Alpha Company of the 150th Engineer Batallion. Wayne is kneeling on the far right. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 17, 2005

Day 151C - Top of the Blogosphere

Congratulations to our own Sandbox Journalist, SFC James Kevin Kelly, whose almost daily journal has topped the Favorites list of Iraq military blogs. Posted by Hello

Day 151B - Duty

This recent post by blogger Scott Ott is worth sharing:

The United States Army, which has missed its recruiting goals in each of the past four months, despite increasing financial incentives, today held a news conference to announce a new recruiting gimmick which it called "duty."

At a Pentagon briefing, an unnamed Army spokesman said that, historically, this little-known concept has motivated more citizens to rise to America's defense than money, prestige or promises of college education.

Journalists at the news conference, baffled by the terminology, unleashed a barrage of questions about why anyone would volunteer to fight for a country that runs a gulag at Gitmo, invades peaceful sovereign nations like Iraq and has no respect for the most Holy Koran.

The Army spokesman further confused reporters with his response.

"Men volunteer to fight, bleed and die for the United States of America because she is the last, best hope for peace and freedom on earth," he said. "They consider the evidence that America has pushed back the veil of tyranny and saved countless millions of men, women and children from imprisonment, torture, starvation, humiliation and brutal death. And they act on that evidence, knowing that the blood of free men is always the price of freedom."

"While critics jabber about global diplomacy, these men step into the breach to shield us all from the peril of our naivete about the so-called 'basic goodness of humanity'. These men don't think America is perfect, because they know the evil that lurks in each of our hearts. But they devote themselves to preventing untrammeled wickedness from roaming the earth. Their heads are clear. Their hearts are steadfast. And their sense of duty has shut down gulags, death camps and dictatorships for nearly a century."

"You can't lure this kind of man with money, slick advertising or blue-sky promises. They need money, but money does not stir their hearts. These men are attracted by the grind, the challenge, the moral obligation and even the thrill of knowing that your heart beats, bleeds and may ultimately stop, in service to a dream -- an ideal that has found practical expression in a nation, under God, that we call the United States of America."

"Most ordinary men live their whole lives in search of meaning, purpose -- a cause to which they can give their hearts. They know the desperation of their empty pursuit of pleasure. They long to spend themselves for something greater than themselves. They know that the grave awaits each of us. They hope to really live before they die. And when, on the street or at the mall, they see a man in uniform, they're filled with gratitude and awe. As they shake his hand and thank him for his sacrifice, they see a reflection of themselves as they wish to be."

"In a very real sense, those who sign up to serve in the United States military sign their own death certificates. Yet by surrendering their lives, they come to know the joy of duty and the satisfaction of service to others."

"What else could inspire a young man to step out from among his teenage friends and to put on the uniform that marks him as the target of every terrorist on earth? Duty. Duty driven by love. Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends."

By the time the Army spokesman had completed his remarks, only a handful of journalists remained in the briefing room due to a rumor that the Michael Jackson jury may have reached a verdict.
 Posted by Hello

Day 151 - Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water

School supplies delivered by our soldiers are making headlines this week. Enjoy more pictures of American good will as seen through the lenses of SFC Kevin Reeves. Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Day 150 - Sole Supporters

Back on Day 117, Wayne talked about how many Iraqi children have no shoes.

"The skin on the bottom of their feet is nearly an inch thick," he marveled. "It has to be, so that they can walk on the rocks and hot sand. To have shoes is a very big deal. I wish we could collect some shoes."

Big-hearted folks in Louisiana went to work the next day making plans:

I am Rebecca's sister in law, Janet Moore. Our school has collected a few boxes of mostly new flip-flops and some almost new sandals and white tennis. I'm giving the other shoes that I didn't think would be good for summer in the desert to some other organizations in town. Since our priest thought it was a good idea to have a shoe drive at our church, it will be the last weekend in June. I hope it will go well, even though so many people are out of town for the summer.

Depending on the response, I might be asking for suggestions of other things the children and people need that we might be able to help with.

Thanks for all you and A Co. do. We pray for y'all daily.

And today, we got this email from a precious Mississippi member of the 155th Family Readiness Group.

Please tell your son that I just sent out two big boxes of shoes to him. I have more coming, but I gotta take a break! When I said shoes everyone came running! I think it's great...I've been boxing and boxing. People from the community and our support group helped with shipping. I really appreciated that. I hope this helps, and I feel so much better to get them out of my way, lol!!! Thought I'd let you know.
Amanda Hudson

Well, Wayne-I think your kids will have some shoes very shortly!

This is too cool. I'm so excited about this shoe drive. I really wish you could see the look on these kids' faces when we come driving by their homes and when we give something to them. They light up like Christmas trees! If I'm able to, I'll be sure to take picture when we hand them out. Thank you so much for your hard work. You're a blessing.

 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Day 149 - School Daze

American soldiers say even though Iraqi children attend school year round, coordinating support can be difficult.

When Sgt. Kenny Joiner and other Mississippi National Guard soldiers visited their adopted school this past Saturday to deliver an initial batch of supplies, a single guard was the only one there to meet them.

"Once I found out that the students would be back next Saturday to get their grades, we planned another trip," he explained. "There are no phones to call and coordinate things with them, and you have to take into account security on everything you do. For example: I couldn't tell them we would be back this Saturday for fear of an ambush. I just don't know that I could live with children being hurt. So, you have to be careful and plan several days ahead and make sure you look at every angle."

The soldiers did make a return trip to the school to deliver the supplies.

"While there, we raised a flag pole and flag we gave them," Joiner continues. "I told the headmaster this is a symbol of trust between us. Because it's also a symbol to the children that they are the future of this country, they should be proud of their flag."

When the soldiers arrived, over 150 students scurried about the school.

"Our plan was to issue the backpacks to as many kids as we could, until we realized 106 students would probably get mad at us for not getting one that day. Instead, I issued what we brought to the headmaster with the suggestion he might want to issue them after we leave as a reward to the students who had scored the highest. He thought that was a good idea. I did, too, because now the 106 students would be mad at him and not at us."

Sgt. Joiner says his unit plans to hold and store any future shipments of school supply kits until August to distribute to the children at the beginning of their next term.

"Today, we did something good for mankind with the help of our supporters back home. We can't thank you enough for the school supplies that have already been sent. You have made a difference."

School supply kits cost $15 each to purchase and to mail. The batch of 10 kits we sent to Wayne today will take about 20 days to arrive. More information is available on Day 119 in the May archives of this blog.

Want to help? Send your checks to Sgt. Wayne West at P.O. Box 20212, Hot Springs, AR 71903. Please note Iraqi School Kits in the memo. Enclose a note of encouragement to the children if you like. We'll make sure you get an acknowledgement by return mail.

(Full story at Sun Herald.)
 Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Day 147 - Seeing Through a Glass, Darkly

When the phone rang early this morning, I hesitated to answer the "unknown caller." My skepticism vanished when I heard Wayne's voice.

Almost immediately, Wayne apologized for having been "short" with me on the internet Saturday morning.

"I was talking to Lauren," he explained, "venting about some of the stuff going on over here. It's been a pretty tough couple of days since we lost the guys from Bravo Company."

My heart sank, my throat tightened, as the mother in me listened to her son trying to be strong, admitting how hard it is sometimes.

While Wayne talked, my mind raced, trying to justify how I could have been oblivious to the tragic events of the weekend. I felt sick at my stomach.

Saturday, I was on the road with music business all day. When I returned, we went to a Hot Springs Music Festival concert. No news. Sunday morning, Mom and I went to church. In the afternoon, we hosted friends before the final concert of the Festival. Last night, still clueless.

The opening line of my magazine column this month reads: "While the rest of us are enjoying the full bloom of summer and soirees on the lake, soldiers in Iraq are enduring scorching heat, suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices."

After Wayne's call a few minutes ago, I read this heart wrenching post on the 155th's online Family Discussion Board:

I am sad to say my husband lost his life over yonder on June 11, 2005. I was notified this evening of this tragedy. I have my son home for his R&R, picked him up Friday. Please keep me and my sons in your prayers. We are all hurting right now. Not sure when I will be back on the board. I am staying on mail and will just skim the subjects of the list. Thanks everyone for being with me thru two deployments.

Melinda, loving widow of SGT Larry R. Arnold 6-11-05

The next post I read was from SFC Kevin Kelly's online daily journal. Here are selected excerpts:

June 12, 2005 was a terrible day. We had two great American soldiers killed and another soldier injured from B Company.

SGT Larry Arnold and SPC Terrence Lee were killed by an IED that struck their vehicle. SGT Landrum was injured and sent by Medevac to Baghdad. An interpreter named Ron was also killed.

I will not go into any details of what happened.

I was blessed to have known both of these great warriors and they will be missed terribly. I'll miss the always smiling SPC Lee. If you had a frown when you walked past him, you would have to smile back because he just made you smile. He was always out there doing a wonderful job at whatever task he was assigned.

I had known SGT Arnold before, but when we got to FOB Hotel, I really got to know him-a truly special man. One of the hardest workers I've ever known and no matter what he was doing, he would always stop to say hello and ask how you were doing.

I didn't know SGT Landrum that much in a personal way, but everyone I've talked to has said he was just as an outstanding soldier as the other soldiers that have been killed or wounded over here.

These men went outside the wire daily to fight these insurgents. There was never any complaining, just "Yes, Sir". They don't come much better than these three.

At last update, SGT Landrum is in stable condition. As we hear more, I will update you. SGT Arnold and SPC Lee may be gone from here, but they will be with us every single day the rest of our lives for being a better person by knowing each of them.

Ron was an interpreter that joined us right as we got here. The soldiers of B Co. considered him one of their own and he was well respected throughout the FOB. A very outgoing and adventurous young man, he will also be missed by this FOB.

Please take these families in your prayers every night and ask that God comfort them to help them get through this terrible tragedy.

I know there will be lots of information flowing through the news soon, but just remember that SGT Arnold and SPC Lee paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom at home and SGT Landrum was seriously injured and each of us is a better person for having been blessed to know and serve with them.

When something like this happens, you never know how you will react.

Every heart here was heavy as we heard the news. Many gathered in groups outside, others inside to listen on the radio as all lifesaving techniques that could be performed were carried out by true heroes. Others just walked around by themselves to gain some kind of understanding.

As I said earlier, you never know how you will react and will you be able to regain your composure. 1LT Marty Davis, on site at the area of the explosion, acted as professionally as anyone I've ever known in being able to gain his composure and update the TOC in what most would call a chaotic incident.

He is the type of soldier that every soldier would like to follow because of the way he handles tragedy and every day combat missions. A great leader, his actions enabled us to get SGT Landrum to the hospital for surgery.

There were many more soldiers that were doing everything they could and acted like true heroes, but I will just always remember that voice of Marty Davis on the radio on any mission that I go on.

At the church service this morning, there was a larger than normal. Responsive reading 478. Then sang Baptist Hymn 61 Come, Christians, Join to Sing. We were then read some letters from 6th and 7th graders who wrote to us. One was from Decatur, MS and another was from Fresno, CA.

The prayer request today was only about SGT Landrum and the families of SGT Arnold and SPC Lee as well as Ron. Not that we weren't thinking about SGT Wong or SFC Galatas, but it just was a very emotional time. They are still in our prayers daily as well.

We then sang Baptist Hymn 481 - Just A Closer Walk With Thee. The sermon, from 2 Kings 6:24 - 7:2, was based upon when something is going wrong with a situation (like yesterday), you can't lose your faith or hope. You have to trust in God and allow him to work with you till you're through it all. After we sang A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Communion followed, and then we sang He is Lord.

I really don't feel like writing anymore. I'll try to write more tonight or tomorrow, but just don't know what kind of mood I will be in. Please continue to pray for these families, our families and all of the soldiers over here. We can't thank you enough for all your thoughts and prayers. May God Bless You, Kevin

To Wayne, Kevin, and all the rest of you brave men and women: May the Captain of the Host guard, defend and protect you from all harm.

To the families of SGT Larry Arnold, SPC Terrence Lee and Ron: May the God of all comfort bless you with His presence.

To SGT Wong, SFC Galatas and SGT Landrum: May the Great Physician work His miracles on your behalf.
 Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Day 138 - From This Day Forward

Mr. and Mrs. Bret Hollis McCormick share their happy moment with friends and family at Elizabeth's parents' home. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 03, 2005

Day 137-B - What a Wonderful World

Myron "Poppy" McCormick kisses special guest at the wedding, Tatum Connor McCormick, Bret and Wayne's newest nephew! Posted by Hello

Day 137 - Rehearsal for Real

Almost daughter-in-law Elizabeth Granger, Myron and younger son Bret prepare for the couple's rehearsal dinner in Pineville, LA.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Day 136 - The Ayes Have It

(Photo of SPC Patrick Bacon by SGT Wayne WestPosted by Hello

Iraq is nine hours ahead of Central Standard Time. Whenever I hear reports like this one journaled by SFC Kevin Kelly, I always try to figure out what I was doing here while this was going on there:

I mentioned last night about thanks for the prayers of protection. I wanted to give you a little more info about last night's Improvised Explosive Device (IED) incident.

...I didn't find out until this morning that when our men found the Improvised Explosive Device (IED), the vehicles stopped. They heard a cell phone ringing, but couldn't determine where it was coming from.

Turns out, the cell phone was actually wired to the IED to go off when the cell phone received a call.

The thing is this: the phone rang, but the IED never went off. Everything was hooked up, but it still didn't go off.

Someone was looking out for us last night. That is the only one way to look at it.

"For He will give His angels [especial] charge over you to accompany and defend and preserve you in all your ways [of obedience and service]." Psalm 91:11