The muddy obstacle course at the Gulfport Seabee base was reminiscent of the bumpy terrain -- and the land mine fields -- Petty Officer Don Gray drove through in Iraq.
"Those are things that we train for," he said, referring to the hunt for land mines. "We train to look for them, to keep the injuries and things like that to a minimum."
News that a Picayune soldier died in a weekend explosion reminded Iraqi war veterans of the life and death danger they constantly faced during their deployment. Maj. Dan Yaroslaski is with the U.S. Marine Corps. He said Staff Sgt. Ferrin's death "brings back a lot of feelings about, gosh this is the real thing. This is tough."
Lt. Cmdr. Dean Vanderley of NMCB 7 stood next to Yaroslaski. "I do remember just the sense of having to be very watchful, very wary," Vanderley said.
Two days before Ferrin's death was released, Rep. Gene Taylor was talking about it.
"It particularly bothers me that a lot of the losses that we're having are to improvised explosives," he said on Monday. "So there is not a corresponding loss on the other side."
Congressman Gene Taylor has been to Iraq. He's seen the war zone. He's talked with the troops. He's read the intelligence. Taylor knows what military men and women are risking, so Iraqis can have a representative government.
"It's a dangerous place. There really isn't a safe place over there," he said. "So we have to be grateful for every one of them that served over there."
Taylor said 110,000 more Americans were on their way to Iraq. As they ride through Iraq, they'll be on the lookout for land miles and other guerilla warfare tactics that have become the signature of the Iraqi conflict.
So far, 565 Americans have died while fighting the war in Iraq. Ten of those soldiers were from Mississippi.