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.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Day 297 - Veteran's Day 2005

In 1938, Congress approved an Act declaring November 11 each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace. Originally known as “Armistice Day,” the day was set aside to honor the veterans of World War I, which fighting ended the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.

Veterans’ service organizations petitioned the 83rd Congress in 1954 to change the name of the holiday to “Veterans’ Day” in recognition of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who fought to preserve America’s freedom during World War II and the Korean War.

From 1968-1978, the holiday was set to fall on Monday, to give Federal employees a 3-day weekend. President Gerald R. Ford resumed the celebration of Veterans Day on November 11 to preserve the historical significance of the date and to focus attention on the purpose of the holiday: to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Wayne was driving from Monroe, LA to Jackson, MS to enlist in the Mississippi Army National Guard to help pay for college. When attacks on the World Trade Center started, the recruiter called and said he would not allow Wayne to sign up when he arrived. “I’ll send him back home. You guys wait this thing out and then decide what to do.”

That night, citizens from our city gathered for an ecumenical prayer service. After all the priests, pastors, rabbis and rectors had finished their prayers for the nation, they asked if anyone in the congregation had anything to add. Wayne, 18-years-young at the time, stepped forward.
“Father, we ask that you give wisdom to our President and all the members of the houses of Congress to make the best decisions for the good of our country,” he began, “and we ask you to give courage to the parents of those of us who have been called to serve and to protect our freedom.” Three weeks later, he was at basic training.
Now, four years later, Wayne’s combat engineer unit is close to the end of a year of active duty in central Iraq. Amid bombs, ambushes, sandstorms and excruciating heat, the heart of these soldiers strives to return some semblance of normal life to this damaged world, as one newspaper editor said.
"In Wayne’s World, our soldiers provide health care for children. They adopted a school. They deliver school supplies sent from home, and worry there aren’t enough backpacks to go around. They notice children didn’t have shoes, and then collect 1200 pair from families at home. They give out toys and candy and supplies, building relationships and trust in a place where there’s been little to trust for many years."
Several times this year, I’ve had to apologize for being late, like to the interview for the cover story of the magazine this month. “Sorry, but I was talking to my son online. A car bomber crashed through a checkpoint this morning and blew up 100 yards in front of him. He's OK. I'm a little rattled."

If anybody needs to find me tonight, I’ll be downtown at the Veteran’s Day parade, thanking all the men and women like Wayne who help keep my perspective straight.