Meanwhile....back home.
Some who have served are back from Iraq, and feeling bitter

Bad stuff happened in Iraq, stuff Adam Reuter doesn't want to talk about.

His wife worries because he leaps out of bed at night.

But when he does talk about the war, he goes right to how the insurgent crumpled after he pulled the trigger. How later, during the firefight, he ended up just a few feet from the corpse. Bullets buzzed by, and he was supposed to watch the alley, but he couldn't help but glance over.

"He just lay there," Reuter said. His eyes and mouth open. His whiskers a few days old. The bullet had gone in his neck cleanly, just to the right of his Adam's apple, but had come out ugly from the back of his head. He was maybe 25, a little older than Reuter.

How can you describe what that was like? Who would understand it?

Nobody. So Reuter keeps his mouth shut. His Army uniform is packed in a box in the garage. He kisses his baby boy every night. He gets on with his life.

At home in Newnan, Ga., there is no war. "It doesn't cross their minds. To them, everything is fine," Reuter said.

After three years, there are at least 550,000 veterans of the Iraq war. The Washington Post interviewed several who were still in the service, and others who weren't — to hear what their war was like and how the transition home has been.

A constant theme was that the public is largely unaffected by the war, and, despite media exposure, doesn't understand what it's like.

The United States that Iraq veterans are returning to is indifferent, many said. One that, without fear of a draft, seems more interested in American Idol than the bombings in Baghdad. Sure, there are the homecoming parades and yellow-ribbon bumper stickers.

But for many vets, those moments of gratitude were short-lived. Soon they were joined by bitter impressions of a society that seems to forget that it is living through the country's largest combat operation in more than 30 years.