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 25, 2005

Day 311 - I Have Never Walked Alone

When Myron and I returned from the golf course yesterday, we were thrilled to find an Instant Message from Wayne waiting on the screen: “The phone lines are crazy. I’ll call you later tonight.”

Sure enough, just after 8 p.m. last night (5 a.m. Friday for Wayne), our Caller ID registered the unfamiliar number we have come to associate with Wayne. For the next few minutes, he described his Thanksgiving feast.

“For lunch, I had a rib eye steak, some ham, candied yams, dressing and pie. For dinner, it was pretty much the same thing,” he continued, “except the Sri Lankan cooks had prepared two ginormous cakes for dessert. One cake, at least as big as a table, was decorated with a huge mountain in the background. A river flowing from the mountain split into tributaries and watered the entire valley. It was really beautiful.”

Returning to my computer to check late night emails just before bedtime, I found this Thanksgiving letter from Wayne (pictures and links added). We offer it as the fourth in this week's series of letters from soldiers in Iraq:

Another year has gone by, one that will never be forgotten.

An emotional rollercoaster, this year could inspire a new ride at Six Flags. Exciting and exhilarating moments. Adrenaline rushes, speed, alertness in the dark.

And then, there are the long 12-hour night shifts. And the fear of silence that makes you want never to be quiet for too long, because you know what you'll think about—how much longer it is. And thinking about it only makes it seem farther away.

On the other hand, you long for the quiet peacefulness of nothing, just to sit and watch the sun blaze across the sky in a hundred different colors as it bids you goodnight.

The wind blows across a sea of sand, throwing my cowlick into a frenzy, but I don’t mind. It's Thanksgiving Day and I'm alive to see it!!

I have lived every day this year with the sounds of voices to carry me through. Sounds through a telephone or a computer; it doesn't matter. The sounds are from angels 8000 miles away who never have given up and never will give up on me, but have always stuck with me through very tough times. And I am grateful.

I have a mother who knows not how to limit her love for me and fiancee who cherishes the very air I breathe. I am in love. I love life and everything that makes living alive.

I have been stretched past my comfort zone into levels of strain and stress I never knew I could bear nor wanted to try to bear, but I have never walked alone.

I have felt strong and confident, ready to take on the world, and I have also felt weak and corroded. Yet through both, I have never walked alone.

I’ve seen, heard, and physically felt things that have made me tremble in fear for my life, fear that I may not see my precious love again. But faith was stronger than fear, and I have never walked alone.

I am a soldier, a son, a fiance, and a friend. Above all, I am a child of a living God who knows not how to limit his love for me, who cherishes the very air I breathe.

The ground I have walked is holy ground and shall be blessed! And never once have I walked alone.

I am covered by a protection policy that was paid for and signed in blood almost 2000 years ago which says that ‘no harm shall come nigh the dwelling of the Lord,’

Sgt. D. Wayne West
150th Combat Engineers
155th Brigade Combat Team