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, February 24, 2006

Mnus 104 Days - Need a Letter?

The only thing bigger than Samara O'Shea's smile is her heart.

In the business world, the twenty-something Manhattanite is associate editor for Country Living Gardener magazine. In real life, the tall blonde-for-the-moment author of is a ghostwriter for anybody who can't quite find the write words to get a message across.

"I've always found letters to be an effective way to give someone else true insight into your hidden thoughts," she said at lunch Wednesday. "Letters can bring harmony where there is bitterness or even closure where there is emotional chaos."

At 20 cents a word, Samara's sentiments are cheaper than flowers, less fattening than candy and last longer than a kiss!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Minus 108 Days - Warm Thoughts in Icy Weather

Temperatures plunged in Arkansas this weekend, driving most folks inside for a long winter’s nap. For us, even church was cancelled.

Speaking of church, my sister, Teresa, forwards the online version of her church’s weekly newsletter to the family every Friday. This week, she tagged a couple of sentences tucked away in her pastor’s remarks with this question, “Guess whose little girl he’s talking about?”
(The pastor is speaking of her daughter, Sarah, Wayne’s 7-year-old cousin.)
It's Thursday afternoon and I am still basking in the glow of our Global Impact Celebration…Already some have shared with me incredible stories about their Faith Promises. One little girl made a Faith Promise of about $40, which is her entire savings. After hearing how some people in Haiti eat mud to survive, she was moved to give all she has to global outreach.
In a follow-up email, Teresa shared, "Sarah said a prayer at lunch that Sunday thanking God for her food, and prayed 'for those who sometimes have to eat dirt to fill their bellies.' She continued, her asking God 'to give them the faith to suffer through it.'"

Actually, our family comprises a history of faithful Christian servants, including pastors, music ministers and classroom teachers. In preparation for additional responsibilities, I’ll be formally ordained to Christian ministry March 2 by my good friend and mentor, Dr. George Monta, who will be arriving with his wife Thursday. We've planned the ceremony at Lookout Point Lakeside Inn, a beautiful bed and breakfast inn here in Hot Springs, owned by Ray and (Rev!) Kristie Rosset.

While the Montas are here, we’ll travel to Louisiana this weekend to celebrate my mother's marriage to Wilford Pickett, a true southern gentleman and Baptist deacon from Delhi, LA, who swept mom off her feet last fall. The day after Christmas, while seated near a window viewing the fireworks from Cinderella’s Palace at Disneyworld, Wilford admitted to her, “That’s how you make me feel, and nothing would make me happier than for you to become my wife so that we can spend the rest of our lives together.” (Awwwww!)

Today, I’m scrambling to finish the March issue of Hot Springs Life & Home magazine before I fly out tomorrow to squeeze in a press tour to Honor Mansion, a beautiful bed and breakfast inn located in Sonoma wine country, 60 miles north of San Francisco.

Down in Louisiana, where the roads weren’t quite so treacherous this weekend, Wayne and Lauren were either studying or getting ready to study for their first statistics exam on Wednesday. Otherwise, everything seems to be progressing right on schedule for their wedding in June.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Minus 126 Days - Rehearsing for Dinner in Seagrove Beach

In Poland, the Catholic tradition of Candlemas celebrated on February 2 is called, "Mother of God Who Saves Us From Thunder." We need it today here in Destin, Fla., where heavy thunderstorms are forecast all day and into the night.

I’m here with Debra Lindley, formerly Operations Director for the Louisiana Folklife Festival for the past 11 years.
After hurricane Katrina soaked up the funding sources for her job in our sister state, she decided to move to Hot Springs. I’m taking full advantage of her event planning and floral design talents to help me plan Wayne’s rehearsal dinner at the Old Florida Fish House, an casually upscal new restaurant just past Eastern Lake, headed east on scenic Highway 30-A.

To help choose the rehearsal dinner menu, we tried seafood gumbo and corn crabmeat bisque for our soup selections. Fresh mixed green house salads were enhanced by homemade dressings. Debra chose blackened redfish with angel hair pasta and crawfish tails for her entree. I had grilled tournadoes of beef with scallops and lump crab meat nested under a delightful hollandaise-type sauce. Double yum!

Right now, we’re staying Gulfside at the Holiday Inn on the Beach, a three-star family-oriented hotel now undergoing extensive renovation in preparation for peak season. The rest of the day, we’ll explore other options for accommodations closer than 27 miles to the wedding and rehearsal dinner sites. At the rate traffic was moving on our way in at at 4 p.m. yesterday, a 27-mile trek during tourist season would probably take two hours. Seriously.