Several soldiers out on patrol in Kirkuk last week stopped at the home of "Harry," one of the soldiers' interpreters.
Harry and members of his family had been threatened, and the soldiers wanted to see if they could help.
While visiting, Harry's wife made her guests feel at home. They drank Pepsis, visited with Harry's relatives and played with Harry's children.
The soldiers even took turns holding Harry's baby during the visit. But that had the effect of making some of them homesick for their own families.
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"Now I feel like I want to cry," 1st Sgt. Steven Woodall of Boise said as he walked to the Humvee. "It was just like being at home. I wanted to kick my boots off and stretch out on the floor."
— Kim Hughes
Weddings are huge here.
Even in the most run-down, dirty neighborhoods, you can find a bridal shop with wedding dresses and bridesmaid's dresses made from shiny fabric with lots of rhinestones.
Adjacent to Patrol Base Barbarian, where Bravo Company soldiers are stationed in Kirkuk, are two wedding parks. They're like city parks with wedding chapels in them.
One wedding park next to the base has a giant Ferris wheel that soldiers say they've seen lighted up, but not rotating. Its silhouette at dusk makes for quite a backdrop to the base's guard towers.
Weddings are huge gatherings with lots of music, dancing and eating. It's rare to drive through town and not see a car decorated for a wedding.
Weddings are pretty rowdy affairs considering that Iraqis are a conservative people.
Young men and women aren't allowed to date. If a young man sees a young Iraqi woman he's interested in, he sends his mother over to her family.
The courting is more like a negotiation between families.
Weddings are rarely arranged. Both parties enter willingly, but all meetings between the couple are chaperoned at all times by family members.
— Roger Phillips