As the Iraqi war comes to an end I hope we are coming closer to a dream fulfilled and that is to walk through the streets of my previous deployed location safely with my Iraqi friends to enjoy some local food and cha.  It has been a while since I was in the desert and this has been a long conflict.  So much has been accomplished but the Iraqi people still have a long road ahead.  I have lots of feelings and opinions as I read the commentaries, the speeches, listen to the increasing chorus of criticism directed toward the military in some circles concerning the tactical engagement of the war.  But number one in my thoughts and concerns are my Iraqi friends.  I pray for them that they keep growing and know peace, prosperity, and justice.  My Iraqi friends were somewhat different from me in culture and some beliefs.  But they were also very similar.  They loved their country.  They loved their families.  They, like the rest of us, wanted to live life at peace and to have good things for the ones they love.  They had put on the uniform of military service to help secure that.  I haven't had any contact with them over the years since I left Iraq, but they are still in my prayers.  I may never go back to Iraq, but for a period of time I lived there, made friendships there, and like hundreds of thousands of others, contributed a bit to the future of a people and a nation.  I may never go back, but Iraq will remain part of who I am and I will remember and pray for my friends.