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, October 19, 2005

Day 277 - Away from Home and Around the World

October is a busy travel research month for me. The first week, I spent five days jaw-dropped among the people and places in Fredericksburg, Texas. Last week, eight miles from Seaside, I waltzed through four days at Rosemary Beach, Florida. Far from typical destination travel, this community has dubbed itself “A Place for Giving.”

Unfortunately, neither the cozy Das Keidel Inn Bed & Breakfast nor the welcoming Winston Carriage House was equipped with high speed Internet. You might say blogging sort of fell by the seaside.

The Palm Treo came in handy for sending quick answers to urgent questions during magazine production, and for asking Wayne to keep us updated on his safety, particularly around the time Iraqis would be preparing to vote on their new constitution. I remember the night (their day) of the 15th. I woke up nearly every hour, praying for Wayne and his fellow soldiers.
“Yes, we are safe and, your prayers were definitely answered,” he emailed back.

“Right across the river is a marine firm base, kind of like the checkpoint we have set up out there, and every night, and even during the day, we hear artillery being shot, mortars landing, and watch tracer rounds flying all over the place as those marines are shooting their weapons. We have even had some of the guys say they've seen tracers fly over the river in our direction from them shooting over there.”

“Anyway, the night before voting day on the 15th, my buddy and I had the first shift for guard duty. We had ournight vision goggles, machine gun, M4 rifles, and XS Energy Drinks. Like everyone else, we were ready for anything, especially since we had gotten word some 40-50 VBIEDs (Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices) were driving around different FOBs (Forward Operating Bases).”

“Because of a threat the FOB might get attacked, we weren't even going to be re-supplied with a hot meal the next morning. So the intersection that we were manning w! as shut down; no walkers or vehicles period.”

“Well, the night went by, voting day came, voting night came, but not a mortar, artillery, machine gun, or personal weapon was heard. It was surreal how quiet it was. Here we were, expecting it to be the liveliest day and night since we had been there. Instead, we got the extreme opposite. Totally quiet. No cars anywhere. No weapons being fired, even from the marines on the other side of the river. Just total peace.”
That was a few days ago. This morning, news alerts report another US soldier, this time from the 56th Brigade Combat Team, was killed yesterday. Two more were wounded. Although these soldiers are not part of Wayne’s unit, we do pray for their families during this difficult time.

Tomorrow, I leave for the Alabama Gulf Coast to report on areas not affected by recent hurricanes, hoping to encourage tourists to schedule their spring and summer trips now. Don’t yet know about availability of high speed Internet. Stay tuned...

(We'll post this one over at Mudville Gazette to let folks know we're still kickin'!)