Donnie Seward’s sprawling, paragraph-deficient e-mail reads like it was written by a man late for his own wedding. Punctuation, be damned.
I’m willing to excuse the VCU track star today, however, because he’s writing from half a world away, in Baghdad, Iraq. According to Seward, it could be a while before he’s around a reliable internet connection again. Within hours, he’ll board a flight for Tallil in Southern Iraq, where he’ll be patrolling some of the most dangerous roads in the world, marked by sneering insurgents and crude roadside bombs.
A member of the U.S. Army Reserves since 2006, Seward is a sergeant in the 1-116th Infantry. Seward will serve as a convoy security vehicle commander. He’ll be riding in a MRAP, a mine resistant ambush protective vehicle. His unit will help ensure the safe arrival of supplies and other assets, as well as the transportation of important personnel during the Iraq war drawdown.
Despite the potential for explosions and gun battles, Seward hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
“The main threats out on the roads used by insurgents are EFP, IED, RKG-3,” Seward writes. “Mainly things that go BOOM!”
With any luck, his penchant for levity will serve him well in Iraq for the better part of the next year. As of this writing, Seward has a little more than 300 days remaining in his deployment. Hopefully, that will help him adjust to his new surroundings. His unit trained in Kuwait in a climate he called, “like turning your oven to the highest setting, putting a fan by it and putting your face in front of the oven.”
Seward also hopes to pass the time quickly between now and when he returns to his fiancée, Tangia, and their newborn daughter, Symara, who was born on June 2. Seward was able to return from training in Indiana to see Symara’s birth, but was back on base shortly after. It wasn’t easy for him to leave, but he says he willingly accepts the challenges of military service.
“The most difficult thing so far is not being in my own environment and comfort zone and not being with my family and friends,” he says. “But everything I have to do and sacrifice as a soldier is part of being a soldier. Just being an infantry soldier is difficult, but it’s part of my job.”
It wasn’t long ago – May 7, to be exact – that Seward was tearing up the track for VCU. Seward earned All-Colonial Athletic Association honors for his performances that day, which included a leg on the second-place 4×100-meter relay, as well as the third-place 4×400 relay. He also finished fifth in the 200. Seward has nine career victories to his credit and holds the school record in the 500. Five of those wins came this season, even with his daughter’s birth and deployment on the horizon, not to mention the rigors of practice and class.
“It was tough for me to concentrate,” Seward says. “I knew I had to do the work in school and I knew I had to perform on the track. My mind was everywhere, trying to get things straight with myself, family and new born.”
Seward says his running career isn’t over, either. The 22-year-old Richmond native intends to return to VCU at the conclusion of his deployment and finish his degree in criminal justice. He says he also has one season of eligibility remaining for indoor track.
“When my deployment ends I want to spend time with my family and friends, grow my beard out and get back into VCU and running.”
That sounds like a conclusion worthy of appropriate punctuation. I think an exclamation point would be in order. But don’t worry, Donnie. You can put it there yourself when you get back.