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.

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.)
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