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.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Day 320 - Good News Sunday

Even though he isn't home yet, it’s definitely been a “Wayne Weekend” here in Hot Springs.

Wayne’s step-brother, Bret, and his wife, Elizabeth, arrived for their Christmas visit yesterday morning. Having seen Thursday’s blog featuring the Uncle Sam nutcracker, they brought a Desert Camo version to add to the troops.

With the Sharpie we provided for the ceremonial year marking, Bret and Elizabeth personalized their gift by autographing it for Wayne. The Camo nutcracker now joins the historical collection accumulated by our family, mostly one a year for the last 21 years.

Adjacent to the wooden soldiers, our patriotic tree reminds us of the sacrifices Wayne and many others like him continue to make on our behalf.

At church this morning, all the scriptures about Jesus, the Prince of Peace, took on new meaning as I thought about Wayne and our other military personnel. (Many folks in our congregation said please tell you they are praying for you, Wayne.)

This afternoon, at a Christmas concert rehearsal in Hot Springs Village, I met the Cedar Mountain Singers’ emcee, U. S. Army Major General (Ret.) Bill Lefler. A spry gentlman whose 34-year military career culminated in his assignment as assistant surgeon general and chief, Army Dental Corps, Bill spent most of his time introducing me to Sergeant Major Henry Fiske, tenor soloist for the concert.

Backstage, I had just finished rehearsing my O Holy Night cello solo with the concert accompanist when Sgt. Major Fiske walked in to rehearse his numbers. Wearing a bright yellow golf shirt with a U.S. Army Chorus logo on the chest, Fiske introduced himself more like the boy next door than a star soloist who sang at the dedication of the D-Day Museum in New Orleans and who has performed five times in Carnegie Hall.

Fiske opened the floodgates to my heart when he started singing this song from Stephen Curtis Chapman's album called, “For the Sake of the Call:”
When you are a soldier
I will be your shield
I will go with you
into the battlefield
And when the arrows start to fly
Take my hand and hold on tight
I will be your shield, 'cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier

When you're tired from running
I will cheer you on
Look beside you and you'll see you're not alone
And when your strength is all but gone
I'll carry you until you're strong
And I will be your shield 'cause I know how it feels
When you're a soldier

I will be the one you can cry your songs to
My eyes will share your tears
And I'll be your friend if you win
Or if you're defeated
Whenever you need me I will be here

When you're lost in darkness I will hold the light
I will help you find your way through the night
I'll remind you of the truth
And keep the flame alive in you
And I will be your shield
'Cause I know how it feels
When you are a soldier
We love you, Wayne, and can’t wait for you to get home!

P.S. Maj. Gen. Lefler asked permission to comment on Wayne's service to the country at the concerts Monday and Tuesday nights.