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.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Day 229 - Say What?

Families everywhere are in transition.

Reporting from Najaf, AP reports say the 3,300-strong Mississippi National Guard unit in Iraq will finish its mission although some soldiers are heading home early to help take care of their families in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"We're going to stay and finish the mission," said Brig. Gen. Augustus L. Collins, commander of the 155th Brigade Combat Team of the Mississippi National Guard. “About 100 soldiers were heading home on emergency leave because of serious family problems caused by the storm.”
Was Katrina’s impact totally unexpected? Read this peculiarly prophetic account of an unnamed storm, published eleven months ago by National Geographic magazine!

The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in. A liquid brown wall washed over the brick ranch homes of Gentilly, over the clapboard houses of the Ninth Ward, over the white-columned porches of the Garden District, until it raced through the bars and strip joints on Bourbon Street like the pale rider of the Apocalypse. As it reached 25 feet (eight meters) over parts of the city, people climbed onto roofs to escape it.

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great. (Hat tip to amitch1242 from the Yahoo National Guard Family Support Group)
More recently, a September 2 entry posted by an anonymous doctoral candidate blogger applauded Hot Springers who have helped her brother’s family deal with the aftermath of Katrina:

They will be staying in Arkansas for the time being because there is no power, no gas, and no food in their town, and so it is much better for them to stay where they are. They have been blessed with generosity in Hot Springs: the First Baptist Church has fed them and provided them with a gathering place to meet with other evacuees; the Red Cross provides them with credible information; local citizens have given them clothes, books for their son, and have even offered them houses to stay in. They've turned down the house offers because they feel there are others who need long-term housing more than they do, but my brother says they cry every day from gratitude. And I am so grateful for those people in Hot Springs, Arkansas, who are lessening the burden for my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, and so many others.