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, January 26, 2006

Minus 133 Days - Coming Home

One week ago today, the Associated Press reported the last of the soldiers with the 155th Brigade Combat Team returned home.

The brigade deployed a year ago with 3,500 Mississippi Guard soldiers and others from across the country.

The final group, including unit commander Brig. Gen. Augustus Leon Collins, had been expected to arrive earlier in the week but their flight was delayed. The Sunday death of Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, Kuwait's emir, had temporarily grounded all flights in and out of Kuwait.

About 75 members of the brigade landed in Gulfport on Thursday. The others had arrived in waves since just before Christmas.

The return marked the end of the largest Mississippi deployment since World War II.

"It is a magnificent day," said Maj. Gen. Harold A. Cross, Mississippi's adjutant general.

Cross said the 155th did more than just fight while in theater.

The soldiers worked in construction, engineering and also set up a farming cooperative in a region that had never been farmed before.

"They stabilized a critical area," Cross said.

Collins, the first black general officer of the Mississippi National Guard, was promoted while deployed. He was offered leave to help family members on the Coast, but he waived it.

The 155th had 24 members killed in Iraq. Fourteen were Mississippi Guardsmen.

The group that arrived Thursday was a mixture of soldiers from across Mississippi and the country.

Maj. Lawrence House, a Mississippi National Guardsman living in College Station, Texas, said he has been deployed before, but this one was different.

"I am ready to be home," he said. "This is my third tour, but it is the first time I returned to a wife."

His wife, Cristy, was the only spouse at the Gulfport hangar Thursday night.

Most families were at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, where the soldiers were transported immediately following their arrival.
Here's the good news from here:
Wayne and Lauren are coming to Hot Springs tomorrow
for the first time since his return from Iraq!!


P.S. A little birdie just flew by and said Happy Birthday greetings are in order over at Blackfive.