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.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Day 220 - Officially Engaging Dallas!

“WE’RE ENGAGED!!” he shouted, rousing Myron and me with a midnight-ish phone call.

Wayne called last night from Nana’s restaurant atop the Wyndham Anatole in Dallas. For more than 20 years, the Anatole has been home to over 1000 rare and unusual treasures from the collection of Trammel and Margaret Crowe.

The restaurant is named for Nana, the wall-size portrait by Russian-Polish artist Suchorowsky. Visible from the bar perched atop the 27th floor of the hotel, the painting is a symbol for beauty and luxury. Nana's restaurant interprets her namesake's style with the elegant décor and innovative American cuisine for which it is famous. Often served to the graceful sounds of strolling violins, the chef’s signature seven-course dinner includes such delicacies as chestnut flour fried lobster and cinnamon-spiced roast duck.

“It was incredible,” Wayne said, describing the evening. “As soon as we walked in, everybody treated us like celebrities. We had a great table with a fabulous view of the city lights. All night long, we just talked and talked and talked.”
“We noticed the wait staff and restaurant personnel who kept walking by the table like they were looking for something,” Lauren chuckled. “I just thought ‘whatever!’“

“At the end our meal, the chef treated us to his famous bundt cake oozing with warm chocolate thick as caramel,” Wayne continued. “We sipped on dessert wine and talked some more. Eventually, I walked around to her side of the table, dropped to one knee, and proposed.”

“I was totally shocked!” Lauren interrupted. “Since I assumed Wayne didn’t have the ring, I just thought it wasn’t going to happen tonight. When I saw the ring, I just busted out crying! Then, after he told me he designed the ring and everything he went through to get the ring to Dallas, it made it even more special.”

While still in Iraq, Wayne designed the engagement ring online at Blue Nile, using their guidelines for selecting carat, cut, color and clarity. I forwarded the picture with his specifications Myron’s Louisiana friend who brokers jewelry.

Once the ring was built and purchased, Myron and I delivered it last weekend to Brooklyn Fleming, one of Lauren’s close friends who lives in Dallas. Brooklyn made arrangements to have the ring stored in a safe until Wayne could come pick it up.

In the mean time, I shipped Wayne’s suit to the home of a family with whom Lauren lived while she was working in Dallas last summer. The suit’s arrival didn’t raise any red flags because Wayne had already told Lauren he planned to take her out for a special dinner last night.

“Everything couldn’t have worked out more perfectly,” Wayne and Lauren agreed. “It was a memorable night we’ll treasure forever.”

We’re thrilled to welcome Lauren to our family. She is the daughter of Lynn and Jim Ritchie of Minden, LA, and has two brothers and a sister. Lauren is a senior marketing major at LSU in Shreveport.