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I just stepped off the plane for my first active duty tour in Iraq. It is 2003 and I am taking my first steps in Kuwait. 

I hear people speaking in a language that I cannot understand. 

I feel overwhelmed.  As soon as we land, everything is fast paced.

I worry that I might not be able to process things quickly in a combat setting, due to my learning disability and crippling fear.    

I touch my equipment that is strapped to me because it is the only thing that makes me feel secure. 

I taste unbearably hot air as I try to breathe.  With my asthma, I am having trouble breathing and getting accustomed to the dry heat.  There is no shade to be found. 

I wonder if this will be the last country that I will step in and if I will ever make it back to my home country.  I am feeling so scared. 

I see the other soldiers who all look like they are trying to be brave, too.  Every time I see people or vehicles, I am scared.  Everything is unknown and I was taught to treat everything unknown as a potential threat. 

I smell an unknown smell in the air.  I cannot figure out what the smell is, but it makes me feel like I am in a place different from where I have ever been before.  It seems alien to me. 

I think every person is hostile and every vehicle is dangerous.    

I fear being around any local people, including children, because they could all be threats. 

Everything can change in a day.