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, December 09, 2005

Day 324 - With Bright Shining Faces

It’s hard to tell who’s most excited about Wayne’s return. One thing’s for sure, we all love Lauren Ritchie, Wayne’s fiancée who has stood the test of a year’s separation during his deployment. The couple is engaged to be married in June at Seaside, Florida.

Lauren is the queen of encouragement and a joy to be around. Last year, she spent the entire holiday season away from her family to give Wayne as much time with his family as possible before he reported for active duty at the end of September. From October until January, Lauren traveled thousands of miles back and forth from Minden, LA, to Hattiesburg, MS, just to see Wayne whenever he could get off base from Camp Shelby.

Throughout the year, Lauren has warmed our hearts with her love and shined like a beacon for Wayne. Now, she glows with anticipation, awaiting the return of her soldier, her friend, and her love.

We love you, Honey. And we’re grateful to your parents, Lynn and Jim, not only for rearing such a fine young woman, but also for so warmly welcoming Wayne into your family.

You can visit Lauren's blog to post good wishes here.