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.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Day 191 - Dog Days of Summer

Kathy and Lindsey Wilkerson are dog people. We are not so much so.

When the last of our children flew the coop (although we didn’t expect Wayne to fly all the way to Iraq!), we moved to a different house with a smaller yard. We've never had pets, and Myron tells everybody the only grass he cares about any more is on the golf course!

The Wilkerson household, on the other hand, has always boarded multiple pets during the decade we've been friends. I appreciate that Kathy and Lindsay, newspaper editor and university supertech, never really went goo-goo over the animals while we less pet-friendly folks were visiting their home. Still, we've shared some great laughs through the years watching cat-torments-dog antics.

After their daughter, Ann, got married this spring, I wondered if the Wilkerson pet frenzy would wane. Au contraire! My lovely Louisiana friends fluffed their nest instead of emptying it! The latest additions to their family are Gumbo and Roux, two border collies.

A few weeks ago, Kathy and Lindsey joined dog blogdom, premiering their online pet diary, Adventures of the Spotted Dog.

Kathy’s most recent entry highlights a dog-friendly web site that allows you to invite another dog to be "pup pals."

“It's just funny to see how many folks are willing to put your dog's picture on their web page, and vice versa. You get an e-mail invitation from the dog, and if you agree, you just click a link and the "pup pal" automatically pops up on your page.”

My favorite story so far is Lindsey’s account of the morning he took Lucy, the visiting chocolate lab, out with him before dawn to get the paper. Quicker than poop, Lucy goes AWOL and leads Lindz on a dog goes wild chase that ultimately ends up inside an unsuspecting neighbor’s house!

What does this have to do with Wayne in Iraq? Not much, except the thing I miss about him most is that great big smile and highly contagious laugh.

Hope this one made you smile today, Wayne. We ALL miss the Big Dog!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Day 190 - Faces of Victory

Ellen Walker sent news this morning of her Marine friend’s scheduled return from his seven-month tour of duty in Iraq.

Starting their journey home today, the Seahawks flew more than 2,500 hours and logged more than 600 sorties during the deployment. The Marines will arrive in eastern North Carolina, proud of the job they did having made their mark on history.

“I remember seeing pictures of the Iraqis being allowed to vote for the first time,” said Cpl. Michael W. Gerencser, a native of Richmond, Va. “Each one had their finger dyed in ink. Seeing their people come together to help create a new democracy was indeed a unique experience,” he recalled. “I know for certain that we are bringing a country together and providing a future some that never thought it was possible. I feel like I have made a mark on history and can say I made someone’s family that much safer.”

Welcome home, Heroes!

Remember the faces of victory?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Day 189 - Shutter to Think

Yesterday, Gregory E. Favre recapped a recent a recent roundtable discussion where a group of leading publishers and editors explored the emerging visual revolution and their roles in it. They examined what strategies and decisions will be needed as technology puts even more emphasis and importance on the visual side of their craft.

The group concluded visual leaders have a duty to examine each image and ask the same tough questions they ask before printing stories that may cause harm.

“It's not good enough to fall back on the old "we-are-just-mirrors-of-the-world" answer,” Favre emphasizes.

Today, Radio Open Source is giving their readers and listeners a second chance to weigh in on the proposed release of additional photos from Abu Ghraib.
The world was shocked when the first photos were revealed. Now the ACLU is fighting the Bush administration for public release of a more gruesome set — this time with videos. We seem to be living in an age where pictures speak louder than words–or do they? The ACLU’s thinking is that promulgating more gore is the best way to outrage a nation. But do we risk becoming immune to these images of abuse? How can we hold the Bush Administration accountable for unthinkable acts if these images leave us thinking not much of anything? In this hour we’ll take a close look at the imagery of torture; what’s gained, what’s lost if the Bush Administration has its way–or for that matter, if the ACLU does.

The Milblogging community has already generated some great discussion in this area. Posts to Radio Open Source’s comment section will likely reach a different and broader audience.

Anybody up for a linkfest?

Earlier this morning, I received an email which contains the emotional account of U.S. Army Spc. James M. Kiehl’s funeral.

A soldier from Comfort, TX, Kiehl was killed in action in Iraq in March 2003 when his convoy was attacked near al-Nasiriyah.

On the day of James' memorial service, much of the population of Comfort— many of them bearing U.S. flags — turned out to line the route of his funeral procession in a moving display of community support for a lost friend and a fallen soldier. This picture was captured by James' 17-year-old cousin, Amy Pierce. See more images with accompanying descriptions penned by his aunt, Vicki Pierce. (Hat tip, E. Walker)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Day 188 - You Get the Picture

Poynter’s Leading Lines author Gregory Favre describes pictures as the purest form of journalism, saying, “They capture a scene in a fraction of a second, opening the door, in that instant, into the soul of the subject for others to see; images frozen in time forever.” (See his gallery of historical photos.)

While photojournalists are capturing history with their lenses, artists in Iraq are painting a picture of a country's evolution with their brushes.

Soldier blogger Lance Frizell recently posted this painting, sold on his military base as one of many works birthed from the sense of a nation's newfound liberty.

Another Iraqi painting he posted in May illustrates the hand of America delivering captives from a wooden crate. Press secretary for the Republican Caucus of Tennessee in civilian life, Frizzell says much of Iraq's emerging art conveys a common theme of America as a champion of civil rights.

“That’s the way we are seen by most Iraqis,” he explains, “because they are perceptive.”

Word continues to spread of the 150th’s remarkably successful mission last week. We’re even more grateful all our soldiers returned unharmed, despite the fact a 5-ton vehicle was disabled by a roadside bomb.

And I’m glad we don’t have images of that.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Day 187 - Moccasins, Mortors, Mudville and More

In case you missed SFC Kevin Kelly’s account of distributing shoes from Wayne’s supporters in Louisiana and Mississippi, it’s worth a visit. Our thanks for these pictures!
In other hot news from the Sandbox, Kevin highlights the amazing success of a recent mission by the Sappers. This is the one after which Wayne told me an IED blew up 40 yards in front of him. When an officer asked if he could drive around it, Wayne admitted, “It wasn’t a question whether I could drive around it; I just really didn’t want to!”

According to published reports, our guys captured over 100 insurgents and found large caches of weapons and explosives in the vicinity of Owesat.

Items seized and subsequently destroyed include:
(173) 60mm mortar rounds
(13) 120mm mortar rounds
(3) 122mm artillery rounds
(13) rocket propelled grenades
(2) rocket propelled grenade launchers
(65) hand grenades
(8) cans of small arms ammunition
(500) lbs of explosives
(4) mortar sights
(2) sniper rifle scopes

Tucked away in the virtual center of the Milblog community, The Mudville Gazette is one of the highest trafficked sites in the blogosphere. Under the pseudonyms Greyhawk and Mrs. Greyhawk, the TMG claims to be ‘the online voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him, that prefers to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day, (they) stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.’

Whenever our blog traffic spikes, it’s nearly always because Mrs. Greyhawk has included us in one of her Dawn Patrols. Just want to say a public thanks for her links.

(Be patient when you visit Mudville. The blog takes about 3 seconds to load.)

Glad to see this positive report from Casper, Wyoming’s Star Tribune about an Iraqi official’s dramatic symbol of gratitude for support from U.S. military.

Lauren just called to tell me about a radio interview she heard featuring a new country artist, Luke Striklin. A veteran of Forward Operating Base Warrior in Iraq, Luke has released a kickin' new single, "American by God's Amazing Grace," describing what he learned and saw as a soldier.(Listen...)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Day 186 - Strength to Endure

As Thursday’s storm intensified, I looked up the instant wind ripped our yellow ribbon from the tree in the front yard outside my office window .

Quick as lightening, I crashed through the front door, chasing flapping yellow tails across the street into a neighbor’s yard.

In my hand, the once bright yellow bow now looked faded and fragile, as if to say it had held on as long as it could. Tattered streamers, curled from the heat, fell to the ground like wilted flower petals the day after a sultry outdoor wedding.

Uncle Sam had suffered a similar fate. His legs, whipped by the wind, lay crossed at the foot of the tree.

Every day since the 150th reported to Camp Shelby last August, the yellow ribbon 20 feet in front of my computer reminds me to pray for Wayne and his soldier brothers. Cars regularly slow down or stop, passengers praying or simply reflecting on the front yard display. I wonder what they thought when the ribbon disappeared.

I’m not really sure why I waited until today to put up a new ribbon, except that I woke up at 2:30 a.m. to another brrring of Wayne’s Instant Messenger. After a few minutes of chit chat, I asked if everything else was OK.

Wayne’s responded in faded ribbon language, “Yep, same ole same ole. Tired of being here, ready-to-come-home thing.”

I used the same pipe cleaner from the retiring bow to fashion our bright new symbol of hope this morning, three days after the storm. With each twist of the metal, I prayed that our God of ‘eternal encouragement and good hope’ would ‘strengthen Wayne and all our soldiers with all power according to his glorious might so that they may have great endurance and patience.’

Picking up Uncle Sam’s legs, I marveled that his arms hadn’t also fallen victim to the storm’s fury. Even when Moses grew tired of keeping his hands lifted, his friends helped hold them up to ensure victory in battle.

Legs back in place, I prayed that all our soldiers would have their ‘feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.’

Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. (Isaiah 8:18)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Day 185 - Weekend Briefs

Shoe Update!
I woke up early, first to the telephone, then to Wayne's Instant Messenger brrrring! Describing women and children receiving over 500 pairs of shoes from Louisiana and Mississippi, Wayne said, "They were going nuts! One little girl tried to pick up a box bigger than she was to carry it on her head!"

Hopefully, we'll get some pictures soon.
Dog Tags to Cell Tags

The first record of soldiers using identification tags occurred in 1863, prior to the battle of Mine's Run in northern Virginia.

General Meade's troops wrote their names and unit designations on paper tags and pinned them to their clothing. After taking great care to mark all their personal belongings, other troops fashioned wooden identification tags out by boring a hole in one end to wear on a string around the neck.

By 1913, Army Regulations made ID tags mandatory. By 1917, all combat soldiers wore aluminum discs on chains around their necks. By World War II, the circular disc was replaced by the oblong shape familiar to us today, generally referred to as "dog tags." (more…)

In case of emergency, how will people know who to call for you, assuming you can’t do it for yourself?

Here’s a simple initiative conceived by a British paramedic, which is gaining momentum on both sides of the Atlantic. Cell users are instructed to put the acronym ICE – “in case of emergency”—before the names in their address book to be designated as next of kin. (For example, “ICE-Myron” or “ICE-Dad.”)

Other folks suggest taping one or two names and numbers to the back of your driver’s license in addition to your cell feature. (more...)

Weld it on or spray it on?

The Hattiesburg American reports today on the military’s “up-armor” program, adding steel plates to Humvees and five-ton trucks. As manufacturers speeded up production of vehicles with factory-installed armor, Defense Department contract workers spent several weeks at Camp Shelby in March installing up-armor kits on 26 Humvees the 2nd Brigade Combat Team took to Iraq.

First Sergeant Chris Elliott of Petal admits 'although the up-armor Humvee is designed to increase the survivability of the occupants during an attack, it makes the vehicle heavier and more difficult to handle.'

We're still hoping the right person will consider the polyurea coating manufactured in Louisiana by ProSet, Inc.

Devil's Foyer

Skip the movie tonight to read blogger Michael Yon’s riveting account of Devil’s Foyer. Great pictures, too.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Day 184 - Hot Springers!

Hot Springers got a taste of Iraqi weather today. Everybody argued exactly how hot it was, but I didn't see anybody walking around with long sleeves and 70 pounds of gear and ammo.

What I did see was this guy walking down Central Avenue without his shirt on!! Blogger Bad Example says 'although Arkansas has produced such brilliant military minds as General Nathan Bedford Forrest, it has never produced anyone capable of defeating a Klingon in hand-to-hand combat.' I'm not so sure now.

Just how hot was it? Here's my dusty dash reading!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Day 183B - Clouded Vision

Hot Springs, AR – After a big storm blew through about 5 o’clock this afternoon, the sky puffed up its cheeks and spit out this pile of cotton.

Actually, these are Mammatus Clouds , named for their sack-like resemblance to udders.

Depending on the reflection of the sun, mammatus clouds can look somewhat eerie or quite beautiful. See pictures.

The weekend forecast for central Iraq is partly cloudy to sunny, with highs of 116 – 118F. Lows Friday and Saturday range from 87-95F, with a cool front pushing temperatures down to 80F by Sunday evening.

Day 183 - Soldier Breakfast: Toast and Gym

Listening to Wayne’s telephone account and reading Kevin Kelly’s description of their grueling 15-hour mission Tuesday helped me understand why physical training is such a priority.

Several months ago, Wayne joined a group of soldiers to begin their own version of Extreme Makeover. The men started their regimen with no gym and no weightlifting equipment, improvising with only Humvee parts and sandbags.

Every two weeks, the guys have taken front, side and back-view pictures to record their progress. I have sworn not to post the photos on the blog, but some enterprising vitamin or bulk-building supplement company should have all the ad materials they need when this group of hunks gets back home!

Thanks to lots of letters and plenty of begging, the soldiers finally got a fully equipped weight room built on base. Last I heard, SGT Patrick Bacon has lost 50 pounds, and the rest of the crew has made similar progress.

To hear some people talk, you’d think taxpayers are funding fancy fitness clubs in Iraq. Not exactly.

Yesterday, blogger BlackFive posted an email from a Corporal in the US Army Cavalry stationed in Iraq. Responding to some weenie’s question why physical training is so important in the military, blogger Deuce Gunner answers, “Lack of discipline and exercise costs lives, plain and simple.”

“Fighting the kind of war we are fighting requires that we be disciplined and ensure we are ready to destroy the enemy, wherever he is, however he chooses to engage us, in a sometimes VERY monotonous setting.”

The Corporal also describes the physical conditioning necessary to function effectively when it’s ‘133F outside (and you’re) wearing long pants, long sleeves and a 4lb helmet, carrying a 7lb rifle in your hands, a 3lb pistol strapped to your leg, a 5 lb shotgun strapped to your back, and 70lbs (of ammo and gear) on your back and chest. (More…)

”As a leader, I keep my men disciplined and physically fit for their own good,” he concludes. “ If they are not (fit), they put their lives and my life in jeopardy, and the life of every soldier in their battlespace (at risk). I ride them hard, but they understand the importance. They know that anything else is just plain not acceptable.”

Thinks about that next time you’re deciding whether to skip your next workout.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Day 182 - Cure for the No-News Blues

It was happening again. Wayne’s name hadn’t appeared on our Instant Messenger list for two days. No email. No phone calls. No July 19 post on Kevin Kelly’s blog.

This morning, I finally called Lauren, hoping Wayne had communicated with her. On her way to school, she answered her cell phone in less than her usually perky voice.

“No, I haven’t heard from him, either,” she sighed.

While we were talking, an unidentified called beeped in.

“It might be him!”


“It is!” she panted, having switched back to me. “He’s OK. Talk to you later!”


A quick check of Kevin Kelly’s blog confirmed the internet and phones on base had been down during a mission:

July 20, 2005 - HELLO EVERYONE. EVERYONE IS SAFE AND SOUND I know there are a lot of people worried because the internet has been shut down for a while, but it's back up after the mission and we are all safe. Will write more toinght, but after 15 hour mission, i'm taking a shower. Spelling errors and all. God Bless, Kevin

In other news, the family discussion boards are buzzing with news of the latest edition of Guard Detail magazine, a military publication full of compelling news and pictures of our soldiers.

Editor Lieutenant Colonel Tim Powell says it this way in his introductory forward:

"You’ve probably all heard the saying, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’… So it is with our 155th Brigade Combat Team currently serving in the Middle East. Prayer is a part of their daily lives, not necessarily because of the war, but because their beliefs were formed much earlier in life. These troops are not shy about their beliefs, as so should we all be. They pray before and after missions, before they lay down for what little rest they get, and again when they wake for the next day’s events. They participate in nightly revival services, Sunday services, and conducted Easter services where several were baptized.

The military uniform is a common denominator for all of us, and so it is with prayer...Many have different beliefs, but those who believe that God answers prayers will hopefully continue to petition Him for protection and a safe return home."

Amen, Brother. Amen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Day 181 - May the Source Be With You

Last night’s interview with Christopher Lydon was more like talking to a newly found cousin than to a radio host.

Broadcast from National Public Radio station WGBH in Cambridge, Open Source is an interactive radio-internet show that takes a flying leap into an ‘unmistakable a border-crossing conversational culture.’

From our first contact with producer Robin Amer, we felt at home with the idea of talking about our soldiers and their experiences in Iraq, as well as our own journey stateside. Other guests included Barbara Kelly, mother of superblogger Kevin Kelly and his brother who is also in Iraq. We were joined by Amanda Jones, wife of superhusband Randall and sister-in-law to Ben, both in the 150th.

If you missed the show, you can still listen online.

I actually didn’t read the “process” of how this incredibly creative group produces their show until now. After the initial brainstorming session, they throw out the proverbial posting bait, hoping the rest of us will bite:

Every time we agree on a new idea that we think can sustain a full hour of talking, we post it to the blog. Usually this is just a paragraph — a piece of truth and two unanswered questions — to help us as we frantically call and Google around to find the people who talk well and have something to say. (More...)

After that, the show evolves as people begin to post comments or questions.

You know more people than we do. If we are talking about banking, you perhaps have an aunt who had an unfortunate experience with an ATM. Perhaps you are the great-great-grandchild of JP Morgan…

I really like this! (I can see Myron rolling his eyes, like, ‘Oh, great! One more thing she’s hooked on!) What a great concept for some teacher to use in a classroom!

Congratulations to the Open Source team for augmenting our efforts to keep the experiences of our soldiers on the front burners of listener’s hearts instead of just on the front page of the newspaper.

The most disappointing part of the evening was not hearing our own soldiers' voices on the air with us. We got this note from SFC Kelly this morning:

I am so sorry that I wasn't able to get online or call. Sometimes things come up. I have just now returned from a mission and didn't even have a chance to email. I was so looling forward to this. Seems like the show went well. Take care everyone.

Maybe the reason all of us felt so comfortable with the ROS team is because they share so much of what we call “southern hospitality," even on their web site:
It sounds a little fruity, we know. “Everybody join hands,” this seems to read, “and we’ll make beautiful radio together.” But it’s kind of true. We’re trying to produce radio in a completely new way. Hop in.

Thanks, Chris. And Robin. And all the rest of your crew.

Watch out! You may have recruited another Open Source regular!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Day 180B - Do Write in 60 Seconds

If you watched CBS’s 60 Minutes last night, you heard continuing concern for our soldiers' safety with regard to properly equipped vehicles. We send the following press release whenever appropriate, hoping someone will consider this relatively low-cost but effective method to uparmor military transportation.
Safer Military Vehicles Goal for Louisiana Manufacturer
Starting with little more than a concept, Louisiana chemist Tom Leaverton is producing an exclusive line of products to stop corrosion, prevent leaks, eliminate odors and reduce cooling costs. With a client list including heavy-hitters like the Pentagon, he hopes a "Big Cat" will help him get the word out he can also improve the safety of military vehicles and provide strong, low-cost refugee shelters. (More...)

Want to help? Write or email your Congressman today!

Day 180 - Shoes and News

Groups from Louisiana and Mississippi recently sent hundreds of shoes to Wayne, to be distributed to local Iraqi children. Here's news from Wayne received during the night:
THE SHOES CAME IN YESTERDAY!!!!!!!! I passed them on to Major Toplin, who is in charge of all the welfare missions. He was very excited and said he would be sending a thank-you note to Aunt Janet!!!!!!!!!! Just thought you would like to know.

I asked Wayne to confirm whether the shipment also included the shoes sent from Amanda Hudson, who lives in Mississippi.

After work today, Myron and I will travel to Little Rock’s KUAR Public Radio station to participate in a Radio Open Source show about the 150th Battalion. Broadcast from Cambridge, MA, on WGBH 89.7, other guests will include Amanda Jones of Lucedale, Mississippi, whose husband Randall and brother-in-law Ben are both serving in the 150th, as well as our own SFC Kevin Kelly from Iraq.

Check your computer to make sure you're set to listen to the show live on streaming media at 6 p.m. CST tonight!

Anyone who wants to can CALL the show at 1-877-673-6767, and make a comment on the air! Very exciting. Afterwards, the show will be archived and podcast through their website.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Day 179 - I Will Fear No Evil

When I woke up yesterday morning, my Inbox was flooded with news alerts from Karbala, Iskandariyah and Babil.

Before I went to bed last night, I read Kevin Kelly’s calming answer to Lauren’s question why we had not heard from Wayne as scheduled: “I’m sorry that I couldn’t write to you last night but the phones and internet were cut of for security reasons for a period of time. Everyone here at FOB Dogwood is fine and nothing to worry about.”

2:00 p.m. - Today, we heard from SFC Kelly’s church recap, “…We then had announcements and prayer request. It was announced in church to pray for the family of a 2/114th soldier that was killed yesterday. I had not heard that news and not sure if it is correct. If so, our hearts truly go out to his family.”

5:30 p.m. - Just now, we got this news alert:

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2005 – Two American soldiers in Iraq were killed by improvised explosive devices July 16. Another two soldiers were wounded.

In the first incident, a soldier assigned to the 155th Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), died July 16 of wounds received July 15 from a car-bomb attack. The incident reportedly occurred during combat operations near Iskandariyah...(More)

Times like these are hardest times for families. It’s like some horrible kind of lottery nobody wants to win. Everybody knows somebody is going to get a call, but nobody knows who it will be.

Someone has already posted the news release on the family discussion board. The posting room has been tensely quiet for an hour now.

This is the part I hate most.

9:12 p.m. - A newer post has been made now, identifying the latest fallen soldier from Mississippi National Guard.

Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. - A Mississippi Army National Guard soldier stationed in Iraq was killed over the weekend by an improvised explosive device, officials confirmed Sunday.

Sgt. Travis S. Cooper, 24, of Macon died Saturday from injuries he sustained the day before, according the Department of Defense.

Cooper, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment headquartered in Starkville, was injured by a bomb that exploded near a vehicle he was searching.

We extend our prayers and sympathy to the Cooper family. LTC Huffman's wife, after having visited with Cooper's family said, "He was an amazing young man with an amazing family. His mother was killed in a car accident in 2003 when his step father was in Iraq with the 223rd Engineers. The family was gracious; they made the visit easy."

6:30 a.m. Monday - We did receive an Instant Message from Wayne during the night explaining in part why he has been unavailable. He is safe and well.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Day 178 - It's Gonna Be a Great Day!

Myron got up at 6 a.m. to play his customary early round of Saturday golf. As usual, his first stop was the computer to check today’s weather.

“Rebecca!” he hollered back to the bedroom. “Wayne’s online!”

After typing a quick Good Morning, I stumbled into the kitchen to make coffee. (Actually, it was 3 p.m. for Wayne.)

Our soldier didn’t have a lot of “news” this morning, but his words seemed particularly pensive as he talked about how his year in the desert has motivated him to build his business when he comes home.

Wayne concluded our conversation with this comment on the greatness of America: “People who don’t take advantage of the free enterprise system in America insult the rest of the world.”

Here’s more great stuff:

Great news today from Army Wife Toddler Mom:
I just got off the phone with Dear Husband. He is returning to his office, after a visit with the Chaplain of the 39th Brigade. Chaplain McLemore is out of his coma, he has been awake for a few days. My husband says his sense of humor was intact, and Chaplain said 'laughter is the best medicine for everything.' The prayers appear to be working.

Soldier’s Mom has great care package ideas.
(Somebody can send me one of these!)
Muchas Gracias Nachos Supreme"- Doritos &/or Fritos &/or any corn tortilla chips; Mexican Velveeta; salsa (wrapped in bubble wrap); small can of olives (don't forget the can opener); bean dip; nacho cheese dip; small can of green chilies; jar of jalapeno's (wrapped in bubble wrap); taco seasoning; small paper plates or bowls (so they can make their nachos); taco sauce (especially easy are those condiment packets from Taco Bell); You could also send the sauces from the various Mexican dinner kits (they also have tortillas in those dinner kits that are sealed so they would probably get there without molding or drying out).

Little Green Footballs applauds traditionally liberal Dallas Morning News for a great wordsmith-ing decision:
Today, this editorial board resolves to sacrifice another word – “insurgent” – on the altar of precise language. No longer will we refer to suicide bombers or anyone else in Iraq who targets and kills children and other innocent civilians as “insurgents.”

Michael Yon continues to post great writing and reporting from Iraq:
The successful bondage of man depends, at least in part, on equal measures of ignorance and intimidation. These are the twin towers of both tyranny and terrorism.

Great thinking:
JOHN HOWARD: These people are opposed to what we believe in and what we stand for, far more than what we do. If you imagine that you can buy immunity from fanatics by curling yourself in a ball, apologising for the world - to the world - for who you are and what you stand for and what you believe in, not only is that morally bankrupt, but it's also ineffective. Because fanatics despise a lot of things and the things they despise most is weakness and timidity. There has been plenty of evidence through history that fanatics attack weakness and retreating people even more savagely than they do defiant people.

Kickstart your weekend with a great laugh from this Kosovo Music Video.

And for today's Greatest Comeback, watch this astounding video seized two weeks ago from terrorists who tried to kill a US Army medic with a sniper bullet from 75 yards away.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Day 177 - Write Ring Radio

Radio talk show producer Robin Amer has requested family members of the 150th go to Radio Open Source web site to post comments and tell stories about their experiences for a program scheduled to air Monday, July 18.

Here are some things she's interested to know:
* What are our soldiers are doing (that we can talk about)?
* What are we doing while they are gone?

* What are the hardest things to deal with?
* What are our hopes and fears for the future?

Sergeant Kelly has already been featured on a previous broadcast, but Robin would also like to hear from other soldiers of the 150th.

Sounds like a good weekend project.

Ready? Write.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Day 176 - Make Like a Tree and Leave

As as regular reader of posts to the 155th National Guard Family discussion board, I'm aware how slippery leave dates can get. You can imagine what an emotional roller coaster families experience (especially those with children!) when they think their soldier is coming home on a certain date, then the date changes.

During the past few days, we've heard bits and pieces from Wayne about the "flexibility" of his scheduled leave in August. For the most part, everybody in our family, including Lauren, seems to have the attitude, 'as long as he's alive and well, we'll take the leave whenever we can get it.'

I'd hate to be in SFC Kevin Kelly's place, having to schedule the leave dates:

We finally got our leave dates for August and that is always a fiasco. Everyone wants dates and have told someone else when they wanted, but I’ve never heard of it. So when I slot them for the dates, there is always some people that are mad because they didn’t get what dates they wanted. I had some people thinking they had August, but they actually had September so that was kind of hard to explain. When it was all over and done with, I think I got everyone put where their dates requested will somehow work out for them. I know how important it is for people to get home for anniversaries, kids birthdays and everything else, but you can’t always get everyone where they want. I did have many of the people come say thank you for working with them which always makes you feel good. I am so glad that I got to come to work for A Co. I actually feel like I’m helping the soldiers and doing something worthwhile rather than just sitting there typing on a computer. Makes you feel a little bit more pride.

For now, we look forward to hearing from Wayne to find out exactly when his leave will actually occur!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Day 175 - Seeing Red on Friday

Several folks sent me emails yesterday about a popular movement to wear red on Fridays as a way of showing support for our troops.

Before jumping on the red wagon, I screened the idea through, my favorite urban legend debunking site.

The authors argue because red is a common color, how do you distinguish between troop supporters and ordinary folk who just happen to be wearing red? I guess we could just assume those people are subconsciously supporting the troops, huh?

Snopes also suggests directly supporting soldiers with gestures like making donations or sending notes of encouragement. You can do that by sending letters to Wayne's platoon through a project started by another mom in our family support group. Send your letters to:
Letters From Home
352 Marian Lane
Vicksburg, MS 39183
Speaking of donations! Our next shipment of school supplies for Iraqi children is being sent today, thanks to donations from Hot Springers Jean Gershner and Bess Sanders. Thanks, Ladies!!

If you're not too busy today, please do the troops a real favor by zipping off a sincere message of truth to not-so-swift blogger Deanna Swift, whose sarcastic pen should have run out of ink a few days ago, referring to Move America Forward's Truth Tour on radio.

Send your comments to, nominating her for today's Durbin Legend award.

So what about wearing red on Fridays? Why not? I'm in.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Day 174 - No Dumping Allowed

For everyday news straight from Camp Dogwood, nobody does it better than SFC Kevin Kelly. The last paragraph of his post today cracked me up.

Good News Sunday was postponed until Good News Monday this week.

1) Wayne called yesterday morning. His birthday packages, along with our first shipment of school supplies for the Iraqi children, finally arrived. No word on the shoes yet. Hopefully, we'll be able to post some pictures soon!

2) We talked to Dr. Monta yesterday (See Day 172 for details.) Adaire was resting well at the hospital. Apparently, her heart is out of sync with itself. Doctors will install a pacemaker on Monday.

"She's remarkably chipper," George chuckled, "especially to be in such a weakened condition. Her heart seems to operating with a mind of its own."

Imagine that.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Day 172 - Heart to Heart

When Myron answered the phone early this morning, George was sobbing on the other end of the line.

Dr. George Monta—the Pastor who married us, my surrogate dad, my mentor, my 80-year-old friend—struggled to tell us his wife, Adaire, had survived a heart attack during the night. (Back row, left in photo)

“The doctors said she had a major event,” he explained. “They asked for permission to do whatever necessary to save her life.”

Adaire is resting now in a Wisconsin hospital 770 miles from home. She and George left North Carolina two weeks ago on a ministry trip scheduled to have ended here in Arkansas next week.

Although I’m disappointed their visit will be postponed, George always says time is only a pesky detail in light of important and eternal things.

George and Adaire have been married for 59 years—an eternity in its own right, by today’s standards. The wisdom of their experiences, freely shared in emails and letters to seekers around the world, has endeared them to many hearts like ours.

Last year, when we learned Wayne's unit was going to Iraq, George wrote, "Wayne’s deployment is in the hands of the Father. I know about deployment, having gone through WWII and faced action at Iwo Jima. As a medic I didn't have to carry guns, but I had to dodge planes and other angry things of destruction such as mines, typhoons and dreadful storms at sea. We didn't encounter subs, but that was history as it happened and we were blessed. Wayne is part of history as it is happening. It is what IS. That's the Name of the One we love and trust. All will be well."

Here’s another of George’s favorite sayings: “When WATER is written on paper, it has an intellectual meaning, but is not useful in and of itself. All written truth becomes real only when lived out by experience.”

George knew none of us would understand "deployment" until we lived out the orders--Wayne, in Iraq; his family, here at home.

My favorite marketing guru Seth Godin recently coined a new phrase: ‘mediocre emergencies.’ Seth makes a good case, but I doubt George is thinking of that sort of mediocre emergency today.

Neither is John Uppersman, a Texas soldier blogging from Iraq after a recent mortar attack.
“All of those restless nights (back home, worrying about bills, the job, etc.) seem so trivial now that I almost start to laugh. I look at how most Iraqis live and realize that once I'm back home, I should sleep like a baby. I am blessed with the love of a wonderful woman. My children are all healthy, beautiful, and smart. I have great friends, a good job, and I live in a country that offers freedom and safety like none other in the world. What do I have to lose sleep over?”

Ask Thunder6, another soldier blogger, what he thinks is important today:
“You might think that against the backdrop of this war – a war that will determine the future of nations – everyday life would seem bland and unimportant. But you would be wrong. I’ve spent a hundred evenings dreaming about leaving work and coming home to my loving wife. The brightest part of my soul never made it to Iraq, it is back in California with my better half. And I do mean better half – every quality I possess she eclipses a thousand-fold. That’s why I married her. A year ago today. Happy Anniversary my love. You are my… everything.”

George has a classic way of ending long emails. I'll borrow it today:

"Sorry to be so wordy this morning, but as you know, words have power. I guess this means we’re full of it.”

When it comes to words, Paul probably said it best:

“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
(1 Cor 13, MSG)

Here's to Love, George and Adaire.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Day 170 - Prayers for London

Where are we headed?

Couldn't we each be responsible for creating harmony, in ourselves, within our families and in our sphere of influence?

How are suicide bombers are recruited and trained? Are we now so politically correct we've forgotten the basic principles of evangelism ourselves?

We add our prayers for all individuals and families affected by the events in London.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will...

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

(Selected passages, Romans 8 and John 17, NIV)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Day 169 - The Company Store

Before we start monthly production at Hot Springs Life & Home magazine, I usually work a marathon week of 15-18 hour days, with one all-nighter thrown in there somewhere.

Don’t get me wrong. I love it. But something usually has to give during that week. Today, it’s blog posting. Just don’t have time to do a lot of research.

At times like these, I’m always looking for timesavers. Here’s a sample from a new one I ran across in the last 10 minutes.

Least-known, most-useful bookmarklet roundup
Bookmarklets are Javascript links you drag and drop to your browser’s toolbar, which help you get stuff done as you surf. Here’s a few of my most-used favorites:
BugMeNot web site registration bypasser
When you happen upon a site asking for a username and password, avoid registration and get a login from BugMeNot.
WebJay “play this page
When faced with a web page that links to MP3’s, “Play this page” creates a playlist on the fly and plays the songs in your default media player. linkbacks
See how many folks have bookmarked a web page in and what comments they added (I use this ALL the time)
Internet acronym lookup
So you’re not SOL when you’re wondering what YMMV means.
Password generator bookmarklet
Create hard-to-guess passwords inside the browser while registering for web sites.

If you’ve got a useful bookmarklet you can’t live without, let me know - tips at

From CS Montor
So while regular visits to LifeHacker might actually increase your time online, time spent exploring the site will probably be time effectively utilized, and may itself result in time gained somewhere else. And if you become so entranced by the time-saving tips that you spend all your free time collecting them? Then it may be time to just walk away from the least for a time.

Talked to Wayne on the phone this morning. He's OK.

Now, back to work.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Day 168 - Off Base

Boxing?! I thought. What in the world is Wayne doing boxing? I knew he and several other guys had been working out, but this was a little much.

"Some of the guys organized boxing matches on the 4th," he explained in an Instant Message conversation, "and I got to get in the ring."

Last I heard, Wayne was whooppin' up on SFC Kelly in a ping pong tournament, but this is the first I had heard of soldiers boxing on base.

"I tore this one guy's face up pretty good," he continued, "but he tagged me back enough to make me wobble."

My mind raced, trying to think of something to say that didn't sound so much like a little kid's momma. All I could say was 'Really?'

"I'm kinda sore this morning," Wayne admitted, "and my left eye is a little swollen, but other than that, I'm OK."

What does he expect me to say...Congratulations?!

"Have you told Lauren about this?" I typed furiously. "Who set this whole thing up?... Are you going to do it again?"

A minute went by. Silent screen.

OK. I've blown it. He's shut down on me, and thinks I'm just being Momma.

"I'm just kidding!!!!" Wayne finally typed back. "I'm ROFL!! Gotcha!!!"

Now that's Wayne.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Day 166 - Faith, Fireworks and Freedom

This week, David McCullough’s book, 1776, tops the New York Times' non-fiction bestseller list as published by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette yesterday. McCullough, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian, chronicles the military campaigns of the American Revolution, focusing on an inexperienced George Washington and heroic citizen soldiers.

Blogger Dave Ermey cites this related excerpt, quoted by Art Katen:

By 1779, there were more Americans fighting with the British than with Washington! There were no less than 21 regiments of loyalists, estimated to total 6500-8000 men, in the British army. Washington reported a field army of 3468. About a third of Americans opposed the Revolution.

Around the corner, Villainous Company puts things in perspective:

Terror – fear – is no threat to the survival of our civilization… We should have declared war on Ignorance.

Ignorance is an enemy that never sleeps, totally without fear or remorse. It is relentless. Day in and day out, it chips away at the foundations of our society, erasing our memories, clouding our judgment, eroding our will…

But it's not just ignorance of current events that poses a danger to our way of life. For even if we manage to get the right news, how can we ever hope to put it all in perspective without a knowledge of history?

Here’s our tribute to the Spirit of Independence and to the Author of Freedom, in honor of brave Americans throughout history:

God Bless America

P.S. Today's picture of the Independence Day baptismal service was sent by SFC Kevin Kelly from FOB Dogwood. His recount of the service is a must read!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Day 165 - Hands Across the Sand

Today, we join other Milbloggers who have adopted the practice of using Sunday posts for good news.

Australian blogger Arthur Chrenkoff highlights Lt. Col. Bern Krueger, a Marine who has been flying helicopters along the Euphrates for the past few months. Recently. Krueger wrote back to the people of his hometown:
I don't see what you see on the news. . . . As I travel hundreds of miles each night, I don't see the violence that you see in the media. Sure, it exists, and is very real to those near it. But it is sporadic, unorganized, and often isolated. It is not everywhere. There are not great pillars of smoke peppering the landscape. There are no riots or mass panic sweeping through the towns. There are no fiery infernos burning houses and schools to the ground, no barrages of mortar fire raining destruction upon the communities, and no raging mobs displaying hate or screaming anti-American propaganda. Sure, it is out there. But it is in small pockets, concentrated in small areas. Overall the country is quiet, silently and eagerly trying to repair an infrastructure damaged by war and neglect and trying to return to some sort of normalcy not seen in decades.

Soldiers with the 155th Brigade Combat Team who work in civilian life as farmers are developing common bonds to communicate with Iraqi tribes by offering new ideas to improve small farming communities.

Other soldiers are working to improve a water shortage caused by a system that rations water to villages in six-hour spurts. After six hours the water is cut off and another farm gets to use it.

"Sometimes their six hours is during the middle of the night, but they can't work on their farms at night for fear that they might be mistaken for insurgents setting out mortars and launching them at the bases," says Staff Sgt. Adam Corley. "They were wondering if our Army Corps of Engineers could fix their water problem."

Perhaps nothing says Good News better than this photo essay of 155th soldiers on Civilian Affairs missions.

On the other hand, let's hear it for the bunch who found this insurgent hideout as big as nine American football fields!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Day 164 - Step by Step

Several weeks ago, Wayne observed how few Iraqi children have shoes to wear. Wayne’s aunt, Janet Moore, a primary grade teacher in Monroe, LA, organized a shoe drive as a cooperative effort between her school and church.

This morning, we received an update from Janet:
“Just wanted to let you know that the shoes got mailed on Wednesday. We mailed 14 large boxes and two very small boxes. There are close to 500 pairs of shoes. The Mayronne family, our neighbors who also Jesus the Good Shepherd school and church, helped to box and ship. The boys commented on how fun it was and they wish they could see the kids’ faces when they get the shoes. Other volunteers who helped get all the boxes to the post office included the local Boy Scouts. A very patient postal worker, who has a niece in Iraq, processed all 16 boxes."
Sending boxes to military post offices can be a daunting task. In Janet’s case, after holding back enough money for postage, she went shopping with the leftover donations to purchase extra shoes from local discount stores.

“The poor clerk at Fred’s who had to take the anti-theft tags off each pair of flip flops did it with a terrific attitude,” she said, “and all the people who had to wait in line behind us at WalMart were so patient and encouraging when they found out we were sending the shoes to Iraq.”

After the group packing effort--assembling boxes, putting rubber bands around each pair of shoes, stuffing and taping--Janet and her team filled out 16 customs forms, each of which takes several minutes to complete. Once she hauled it all inside the Post Office, the postal clerk spent another 3-5 minutes on each box. And finally, Janet presented donations of $456 to cover shipping costs!

"May this bring smiles to the children and their parents and a heightened sense of good will on the part of the locals toward you," she adds. "God bless and our prayers are with you all daily."

Friday, July 01, 2005

Day 163 - Wayne's 22nd Birthday

Probably the only one who cares more about a birthday than the one who celebrates is the mom who actually did the birthing.

I’ve thought a lot about the Virgin Mary today. Theology aside, you gotta hand it to the Catholics for honoring the Mother part of one of history’s most amazing women.

Think about what might have happened if Mary had been indoctrinated with Choice instead of with Responsibility.

And Joseph, bless his heart. Good thing he didn’t grow up watching Friends. He actually was one.

Jesus was born after Mary’s three-day donkey ride to a one-star hotel in Bethlehem. Even when relegated by an insensitive innkeeper to the barn out back, Mary kept her cool and delivered on a Promise.

Good News travels fast. Angels sang. Shepherds shouted. But Mary simply pondered these things in her heart.

Our first grandchild was here last weekend. Mesmerized by the miracle of new life, we sat for hours, watching Connor sleep and eat, coo and hiccup, stretch and yawn.

As the new family backed out of the driveway on Sunday, Myron and I pondered how much the baby will have changed by the next time we see him.

Jesus made another three-day journey with his parents when he was twelve, this time from Nazareth to Jerusalem for a 7-day Passover celebration. Somehow, on the way back, the family got separated.

Jesus' parents had already traveled a full day by the time they noticed he was missing. Wouldn’t you like to have heard that conversation?(Especially since, by religious law, women were not required to make the trip!)

Counting the day-long trek back to Jerusalem and the extra day they had spent looking for their son, it was the third day when Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple.

While resident teachers were marveling at the wisdom of their young visitor, Mary walks in and immediately throws the Mother Lasso.

"How could you treat your parents this way?" she demands.

"Why were you searching for me?" Jesus counters. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"

Nope. They didn’t get it. (Here’s your Sign!)

Poor Mary. She could have stomped over and spewed, “Listen here, young man! Do you have any earthly idea what I’ve gone through to get you to the point where you could stand here and sound half-way intelligent?”

Instead, Mary treasured these things in her heart.

Poor Joseph. He could have cracked his own parental rights whip, “The only father’s business you need to worry about is right here at the end of my arm!”

Instead, Joseph simply took his family back home to the carpenter’s house.

An obedient son, Jesus went down to Nazareth with his parents.

I bet that was a quiet three days. Things were different now, and everybody knew it.

This time, Divine Purpose wasn’t sung from the heavens or shouted from the hilltops. It showed up on the Way, in Truth, through the Life of Jesus--a kid talking to the good old boys at the Temple.

Did Mary and Joseph finally get it? They must have, because Jesus continued to grow in wisdom and favor with God and men. And they must have helped.

Yes, parents are mouthy. Yes, we sometimes forget the very lessons we are trying to teach. And yes, we resist cutting the apron strings.

But in the end, we finally get it. With a little time and a lot of Grace, parents eventually get The Big Picture.

Mother Mary put it best: “Be it unto me, according to Thy Word.”

But I do more than thank. I continually ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory--to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him--endless energy, boundless strength! (Ephesians 1:17-19 MSG)

Happy Birthday, Wayne.


Wayne said in a short Instant Message conversation just now he sends thanks for the packages he received today from his sister, Nikki, from Millsaps College, and from Ocee Elementary School.