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, 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.
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