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, September 10, 2005

Day 232 - Swing Pitch

Jackson's Clarion Ledger says about 80 members of the Mississippi Army National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team, whose homes and families were affected by Hurricane Katrina, are returning to Mississippi from Iraq on emergency leave.
"These soldiers have been fighting the war in Iraq for the past eight months, and this is the proper thing to do since their homes were completely lost during Hurricane Katrina," said Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, adjutant general of Mississippi. "We'll do everything possible to help these heroes get back on their feet and resume their lives as citizen soldiers in our state."
This year has been an emotional rollercoaster ride for many families, including ours.

Soldier blogger Dadmanly probably spiked Kleenex stock a few points Friday with this tissue-friendly post about the sacrifices of separation. His son gave up a slot on the All-Star baseball team this summer to share a family vacation while Dad was home on leave from Iraq:

They kept winning. And winning. They took a state title this year. At the awards banquet the other night, you'd think these young boys had just come back from the moon. (Our town takes sports a little too seriously, I suppose.)

Now Little Manly was okay with all that; he was excited for his league, and there was no trace of regret. I'm not sure he even realized that might have been him up there accepting awards and trophies and all that attention. I don't know if he was thinking it, but I know what I was thinking. Even if it had been him, he and I would have traded it all for the few hours we spent together, now that we're apart.
What make sacrifices worth the pain? Read Dadmanly's answer.

While Wayne and Lauren are wrapping up the last few days of his R&R with extended family in north Louisiana, Myron and I jumpstarted the weekend at the opening night concert of 2005 Jazzfest, featuring Ruby Wilson and the Beale Street Band from Memphis, TN. Sponsored by Hot Springs Jazz Society, the concert hosted evacuees from South Louisiana as special guests.

Click here to view Video #1.
(When the new window opens, click the "play" button. Be patient. Might take a minute to load.) Click here to view Video #2.

Acknowledging she had been helping with recovery efforts for the last ten days, Ms. Wilson hushed the house with her truly soulful segue into “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” At the end of the program, Ruby pleaded with the audience to ‘sing for the people of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.’

“C’mon, y’all,” she preached. “Get up! These people need us! They need strength. Thank you, Jesus. They need our prayers. Amen? Sing for them!”

All over the auditorium, we stood. Arms lifted toward heaven, people waved handkerchiefs, tissues, tee shirts—-whatever they could find! And WOW, what a chorus!

O Lord, I’m glad--to be--in that number----as the Saints go marchin’ in!