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.

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.

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