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 26, 2005

Day 283 - Mess, Motarville and Mastication

I've got a whole new appreciation for folks flooded by recent hurricanes. Our house was flooded with repair technicians yesterday to help straigten out the mess from a 2-inch deluge of water in our utility room, hall, kitchen and foyer caused by a faulty water pressure regulator and a stopped up drain line. Long sentence? Long day.

During the hubub of yesterday's activity, Wayne called. A little unusual, I thought, especially since I had talked with him online just the day before. After a few minutes of idle chit chat, he spurted, "Yea, we just got mortared. It was close enough for me to hear while I was working out. We all made a beeline for the bunker. Everybody's OK, though."

While I was breathing my prayers of thanksgiving, Wayne continued, "Those suckers just need to back off and leave us alone, 'cause here's what I know: Next week, I can say, NEXT MONTH, I'm coming HOME!"

And what a day of rejoicing that will be!

Wayne also said the seasons have changed in Iraq. Nights are cold, like in the 60s. That's shiverin' weather when your body has grown accustomed to 130-degree heat refected off sun-baked sand. He told me about blankets handmade by Iraqi women he bought as early Christmas presents for Lauren and me. (I gave him permission to use mine until he comes home.)

Over in south Alabama, a cool front put a nip of Fall in the air for the last day of our press tour. When the bird banding group returned to town, we all met for lunch at King Neptune's Seafood Restaurant, owned by Al and Diane Sawyer, the same folks who own Gulf Bay Seafood Grill.

Before you ever eat an oyster at King Neptune's, you drive over tons of crushed and soon-to-be-crushed oyster shells which make up the parking lot surface. General Manager Lane Gilbert estimates the former drive-up-take-out-only restaurant now serves 40 cases, or nearly 5000 raw oysters a week! That's in addition to the 250 pounds of royal red shrimp, a truly regal variety for taste and texture.

Most of our group chowed down on King Neptune's famous Po-Boy sandwiches, offered in fried shrimp or fried oyster varieties. Served with fries and your choice of potato salad or coleslaw, the wide-mouthed experience makes good use of the roll of paper towels parked at the end of each table.

Neptune guru Nick Fawal, who's been with the restaurant for 11 years, introduced us to the bottle at the other end of the table--Busha Browne's Pukka (pronounced Poo-ka) Hot Pepper Sauce. This curious blend of mangoes, raisins, onions, tamarinds, peppers and spices is definitely not for the fainthearted or anybody who hasn't heard of Scotchbonnet peppers! Yes,I was in hotsauce heaven.

We did suggest a more appropriate pronunciation for the condiment might be an Alabama drawl version of the word "pucker." That would make it "PUCK-ah."

(Posted at Mudville Gazette)