I got back yesterday from RI, where some of my family lives. The trip was great. I got to eat seafood almost every day! (The best thing my base in SC has to offer is the local Red Lobster...yuck!)
One of the things I've noticed, though, is the difference in reaction among different people when you say you're going to Iraq. Most of the military people, especially those that have been there, call it the place of no beer, so offer to buy me drinks since I won't get anything better than near beer there. I'm not looking forward to not having a single beer for six months. (It's like being on TB medication, which I only lasted a week on for other reasons.) Civilians, though, tell me good luck and stay safe. I was talking to a friend of mine about a similar topic. I've been to the Middle East enough that I wonder if my perception of what's safe is different from those that haven't been there. I admit that when I used to wear my abaya and walk around the marketplace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I never had any fear that something would happen to me. In fact, I guess I've spent more time walking streets in the Middle East by myself than I have in the US in the last 15-20 years. Maybe it's a false sense of security I feel over there, but it never seems like there's a lot of crime there. (Of course, the deterrents there are different. You know a guy has probably been convicted of stealing if he's missing a hand. Signs in the US aren't anywhere near as obvious.) I know that Iraq is probably the least safe place I'll travel to, at least up to this point, since I get a gun and live ammo there. I guess it's to be expected that military and civilians will respond differently, but I've never really considered the non-military point of view until now.