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.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Day 234 - Time Flies

Some Louisiana families evacuated to Arkansas are enjoying a genuine brand of southern hospitality. Meanwhile, some Mississippi families are frustrated over whose soldier gets to come home and who has to stay in Iraq.
“I live here in Gulfport, MS and my husband is in C Co,” said a wife posting in a family support chat room. “He is not able to take emergency leave due to the fact that while most everyone has received damage ( I have major damage, but my house is livable.), not all have lost everything. From what I understand is that those who have lost everything, or who have the most need to be at home, are granted their leave. I guess they have a priority list or something. Though I desperately need my husband here and he wants to be here, it's not going to happen. I am somewhat angry about it, but at the same time I can understand that there are others in more need. We have a roof over our heads, which is more than I can say for a lot of people here on the MS gulf coast. It is a horrible tragedy here. Unbelievable what has happened. I still have family members and friends missing.”
Over in Louisiana, Guardsmen are returning home to a mixed bag of blessings. Most of the soldiers lost everything to Hurricane Katrina, and will qualify for safe haven status, which entitles them to a 14-day leave. After that, they may be eligible for demobilization.
"We're offering them the opportunity to continue to serve in the Guard and help us rebuild southeast Louisiana," Governor Blanco said. "That will keep them employed. This will be an opportunity to tide them over."

Maj. Gen. Bennett Landreneau said the Guard would help them find housing, and the soldiers would be allowed to go to New Orleans as soon as it was safe.

Here in Hot Springs, it’s strangely quiet again. Wayne has returned to Iraq for his final months of deployment. Before he left, Wayne got to hold his newest niece, Taylor Catherine, the same way we used to hold him as a baby when he had colic.

Just before Wayne boarded the plane in Dallas, he commended the USO for their support, and thanked them for the “care package” which included a 100-minute phone card to call home en route back to the FOB.