I have heard stories, listened to the news and listened to friends who have a brother, uncle, father or friend in Iraq. My cousin, Jason, just completed his second term in Iraq and recently came home for a visit at Christmas.

Sgt. Jason Fish was in Baghdad. He is presently with the 101st Airborne in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.

I grabbed this opportunity to sit with him and to ask some questions . . .

Q. What did you miss most about home?

A. I missed my family and the clean air the most.

Q. What were some things you couldn’t bring from home?

I couldn’t bring my truck with me.

Q. Did you meet a lot of new friends?

A. I met a lot of different people from all over the world. They were mostly soldiers. I did meet several people from other countries as well. I made friends earlier in the tour with a guy from India.

Q. What are some things that were different?

A. The buildings seem stronger, but there is a lot of trash and it is very dirty. It is really gross when it is rainy and there are a lot of dust storms.

Q. Did you ever get lonely?

A. Not really. I lived with many soldiers who became my friends.

Q. What was your favorite part?

A. Leaving and coming back home!

Q. What was your favorite part about being over there?

A. My favorite thing was to go on missions because it made the time go by fast and, of course, the extra money was nice!

Q. What are the people like?

A. Most of the people are friendly. They served tea when we were on missions in certain areas. Most of the kids know English somewhat.

Q. What did you do on missions?

A. Patrols which means I was looking for explosives, evidence collection missions, hazardous surveys, harmful chemicals, escort missions a lot and finding certain people. I did lots of different things. There was a room in a hospital that had hazardous chemicals that we had to check out.

Q. What really goes on over in Iraq?

A. People are getting nicer. There are more schools and more power. The people are learning how to drive. We have actually caught a lot of bad guys and a lot of terrorists. There is a lot of construction going on, i.e. roads, buildings. The kids go to school and are learning English. The place still needs cleaning up, but things are getting better and they are still working on it. We have cleared out things that could have been bombs or explosives.

Q. How is it getting around to other camps?

A. It is pretty easy. We get information from other people before we go on a mission. That way we know what to expect.

Q. What is the weather like?

A. In the summer it is very hot and dry, about 130. The things that we wear are very hot. In the trucks that we drive in, it is very hot and it might feel like 170 degrees. Most of the missions were at night when it is a little cooler. The days are sunny all day long with no rain.

Q. What are some of the things you saw that you remember the most?

A. I have seen a few people get killed. A friend of mine got killed. I have seen Iraqis get killed and shot at. I have seen cars blown up.

Q. How do you communicate with family and friends back here?

A. Occasionally, I would use the morale phone or the satellite phone center. Most of the time, it was easier to just use e-mail.

Q. How is the food?

A. The food in the dining facility was pretty good for the first few months, but after that, it got old eating the same menu every week for a year. Occasionally, we would go someplace else and they would have a Burger King.

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