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, 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)