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.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Day 310 - On Behalf of the Captain of the Host

Today, I'm thankful for words. All my life, words have fascinated me. Beautiful prose makes me weep. Angry words wound me. Profound speech moves me.

"Epistle" simply means a letter intended to be published and read by the general public. An established literary style as early as the 4th century, general epistles written to churches and individuals eventually became the basis for most of the Biblical New Testament. The main body of the letter usually followed an opening salutation, and was rounded off by more or less personal messages.

This week, we've already shared two letters. The first, from Colonel William Glasgow, described accomplishments of the 155th this year. Monday's letter from Sergeant William J. Rausch provided a clear view of positive changes in Iraq from a solider on the ground.

Our third open letter this week comes from CPT George W. Vinzant, a soldier from Mississippi currently serving with the 155th Brigade Combat Team. The original letter was read in its entirity last month on American Family Radio's Issues Today program. Here are portions of CPT Vinzant's letter (pictures added):

When we came to Iraq, the people here lived under the rule of a tyrant. Today they're working towards a free, democratic state.

When we drive down the road the Iraqi children run towards our vehicles waving their hands, why? Because they know that American soldiers aren't shooting bullets at them, but bringing food, shoes, clothes, candy, medical supplies, soccer balls, water, the things they need and the same things they know their own children would want.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. (Abraham Lincoln)

We, as Americans, above all other nations on the earth, ought to understand what's going on this country. Our soldiers die here so that a new nation, based upon freedom, a government by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

This isn't a football game; it's not a pie eating contest or Miss America Pageant. It's a struggle for a way of life, for freedom for a people. Why should we care? Because we're Americans, and we should know what this fight is really about.

I've stood on the ground in Babylon where Daniel stood. I've seen the Euphrates, where Adam, Abraham, Noah, Ezekiel, walked. When I look up at the stars at night, I remember them. I pray for the people of Iraq. I pray for their freedom, for the safety of their families, for their soldiers, for victory and peace in this land.

My love is greater than hate; my faith is stronger than fear, my hopes higher than despair. I will do my part, both as a soldier and a Christian, to help this country to receive the same liberties and freedoms we have at home.

Some would say we're fighting to help an Islamic country, or ‘If they don't believe in Jesus, why should we help them?’

If you believe that we are the Body of Christ, that He manifests his love to the world through us, that our words and our deeds are seeds and reflections of His love, then you must also understand that many others and I are here are planting seeds. I do not despair at the poverty in this place or what the news media has to say. Instead, each day, I do what I can from where I am to see that His love is manifested in this earth.

I may not be able to feed a thousand children, but I can feed one. I may not be able to provide shoes for every child here, but I can provide them for two or three. I might not be able to fix all of it, but I'm going to do my part to fix some of it.

Some people just never get it. The mountains are too high, the storms too large. They never stop fearing. Engaged in daily discussions, their mouths speak fear and their feet remain planted in place. It makes me just want to yell, "Get up and do something! Start moving forward!”

It's not my job to fix the world, but it is my job to minister the love of the Father to it. If I have to carry a weapon to bring freedom to this country, to defend the rights of the Iraqi people, then so be it. I thank God for the opportunity to kick in and do my part.

I'm an adopted child of God, with a purpose in life. His eyes are upon me and I never walk alone.