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 16, 2005

Day 330 - O Christmas Tree

As a token of Christmas cheer and support for Wayne, this picture of a patriotic tree was sent from Kim Everhart, former volunteer coordinator for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. The tree is one of seven Christmas trees decorating her home on Lake Hamilton .
“I have to tell you, I am not a blogger fan,” she began her email. “I have never gotten into them. But I thoroughly enjoy yours, though I feel like I am peeking into your diary. I’m attaching a photo of Monte’s red, white and blue tree that we always put in his office here. Also, Chelsea collects nutcrackers and her middle name is Liberty, so when I saw the ‘Liberty’ nutcracker (the same as your 2005 one) I bought him! Weird, huh?”
Although Camp Dogwood is being closed, kudos are still pouring in about the great job performed by soldiers of the 155th Brigade Combat Team under the command of Brig. Gen. Augustus Collins.

Collins' soldiers confiscated enemy weapons caches containing 18,000 munitions, which has helped to reduce the effectiveness of terrorist attacks in the area.
"We've taken a lot of the things that the enemy was using against us to try to kill or hurt our soldiers," Collins explained, "so now they don't have as robust an inventory of things to use as they once did."
Collins said Iraqi soldiers and police are taking a larger role in security operations in his area of operations. In fact, the Iraq police and army now have responsibility for security in the city of Najaf, he said.
"They have done a great job," Collins said, "as far as being able to provide a safe and secure environment for the people of Najaf." Many buildings have been renovated in Najaf, and the markets are open, he said.

"Everything is going in the right direction as far as Najaf is concerned," the general said, noting that religious pilgrims have begun returning to Najaf to visit its famous shrine.
Collins said his troops helped to renovate part of the Najaf Teaching Hospital that now treats 400 patients daily. And after renovations, the city's soccer stadium reopened in October for a game between the Baghdad and Najaf clubs, he said, that attracted 20,000 spectators.

We're proud of the legacy our soldiers are building with the people in Iraq. In a short email from Wayne this morning, he said despite some projects being on hold right now, things are moving in the right direction.

More than two-thirds of Iraqi voters turned out in the country's landmark election, according to first estimates Friday. The smattering of violence didn't appear to discourage Iraqis, some of whom turned out wrapped in their country's flag on a sunny day and afterward displayed a purple ink-stained index finger.