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, August 07, 2005

Day 199 - North to Alaska

Here we are again, back at DFW Airport, only this time our flight appears to be on time. U.S. soldiers parade up and down the halls. The smiling ones are coming home on leave. The not-smiling ones are returning to duty.

Close to us sits First Sergeant Steven DiGeorgio, on leave from 120-degree heat in Iraq, headed for 40-degree temperatures in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. That’s just outside Fairbanks, for all you mainlanders like me who didn’t have a clue, either.

“I missed my family the most,” he says. “When I get home, the first thing I’m going to do is wake up my kids, even if it is 2 o'clock in the morning. My wife hasn’t told them I’m coming home!”

The lady sitting next to us interjects, “Kiss your wife first!”

“Cool weather is something else I’ll definitely enjoy,” DiGeorgio adds. “My wife asked me about food preferences when I get there. Actually, I don’t care so much about that as much as I do just being with them and going fishing and stuff. It will also be nice not to have to wear a uniform and boots for a couple weeks!”

What would Sergeant DiGeorgio like to tell the American public?

“We really appreciate the support like we got last night coming into DFW. After we left the baggage area, we rounded the corner. Nearly 100 individuals were clapping and cheering and walking up to shake our hands. It was really neat. Since the airport was nearly closed when we got here, they provided a bus to take us to a nearby hotel instead of making us spend the night in the airport.”

At the Clarion South, hotel management provided free dinner and breakfast for the 280 arriving soldiers who had all missed their connecting flights. That's a lot of hungry mouths!

SFC DiGeorgio doesn’t know exactly how long he has left in his deployment.

“It’s a pretty fluid situation over there,” he explains. “Nothing is set in stone. It’s all wait and see at this point.”

Time to board.

“Again, we all appreciate all the support we’ve gotten,” he says, rising to shake Myron's hand. “We’ll be glad to get home for good.”

God bless you, Soldier. Salute.