Star of Hope welcomes home Iraqi war veteran McDonald

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

Star of Hope Missionary Baptist Church will be the sight of a &#8220Welcome Home Celebration” for U.S. Army SGT. Will B. McDonald II of Luverne.

The event will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 26. The church is located at 2296 Star Hope Church Road in Luverne.

McDonald is a 1992 graduate of Luverne High School. He first enlisted into the Army in Feb. of 2002. He completed his basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and continued his training at Fort Lee, Va., where he became a food service apprentice.

He was deployed to Iraq from March of 2003 until March of 2004 with the U.S. Army's 4th Division from Fort Carson, Colo., which was the same division that was credited with the capture of the &#8220Ace of Spades,” Saddam Hussein.

&#8220It was a really good feeling when he (Hussein) was captured,” McDonald said. &#8220We were wondering where he was. After he was caught, there was a lot of celebration.”

Even though the thought of death was always on his mind, McDonald said that having to guard Iraqi civilians early in the war was an unnerving experience.

&#8220At that time, we never could be completely sure of what they might do,” he said. &#8220They could have been secretly armed…you just didn't know.”

Bennie F. McDonald, Will's father, said that while his son was overseas, he continuously monitored the news.

&#8220I slept with the phone under my pillow that entire year,” Bennie McDonald said.

&#8220I tried to write to Will as often as I could, but we could only talk on the phone about twice a month while he was in Iraq,” he said.

&#8220Will kept me informed, and I would really try to pay attention to his moods,” he said. &#8220If he was down, I would try to encourage him and give him words of wisdom, and I believe it worked…I was encouraged by it, too, especially just by hearing from him.”

&#8220I knew that when he left Kuwait, he would be traveling by truck convoy,” Bennie McDonald said. &#8220I had heard that the enemy would run out into the road to try and stop the convoys, and I knew they would even use children to do this, but Will said they had been given orders not to stop for any reason. So, I was relieved when I got his call from Baghdad saying that he was safe.”

After completing his deployment in Iraq, McDonald was awarded the Army &#8220Medal of Achievement” in March of 2004. He recently completed a 12-month tour of duty in Korea.

Even though he's glad to be back home, McDonald, who was featured this past Christmas on WSFA's &#8220Holiday Greetings,” said that he is extremely proud to be able to be in the military and serve his country.

&#8220This ‘welcome home' party is something I've wanted to do for him for a long time,” Bennie McDonald said. &#8220This is a time to celebrate.”

The March 26 celebration at Star of Hope Missionary Baptist Church will have a patriotic theme and will include red, white and blue decorations.

The McDonald family praise and worship team will present songs of praise during the morning worship services. The praise and worship team includes Bill Vartec, James Norman, LaRoy Bodiford, and Bennie, Claudy, David, April and Bennie McDonald, Jr.

A reception will follow the morning service in the dining room, and everyone is invited to attend.

U.S. Army SGT. Will McDonald will leave March 27 for his next assignment in Fort Polk, La.