When asked Friday what he thought of most while serving in one of the world's most dangerous regions, Craig native Chris Thompson didn't have to look far to find the answer.
"Do I think about you a lot?" a smiling Thompson, a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, asked the 2-year-old, blond-haired, blue-eyed firecracker sitting on his lap.
"Wh-wh-what?" answered his son, Riley, wriggling in the arms of his father. He then returned a wide-toothy grin of his own. "Yeeeaahh."
Thompson, 20, a 2006 Moffat County High School graduate, recently returned home from a seven-month tour in Fallujah, 43 miles west of Baghdad.
He said his boy wasn't ever far from his mind.
"It's hard, but it's something I have to do," Thompson said. "I miss him a lot. I think about him a lot. : I always have a picture of him with me."
Father and son were reunited Oct. 7 when Thompson returned home. The first thing he wanted to do was see his son.
"It was exciting," he said. "He really grew up in seven months."
Thompson, son of Craig residents Kim and Richard Thompson, enlisted a month after graduating high school in June 2006. Unsure about college, the then-senior who grew up on his family's farm set sights on the Marine Corps, and seeing the world outside his birthplace.
"I didn't know what I wanted to do," he said. "The Marine Corp is more of an elite force than the Air Force or the Army. : I heard it was the hardest to be part of. Anyone could join the Army. Not everyone makes it into the Marine Corp.
"I just wanted to get out, see other cultures and how other people lived besides just here."
Ask and you shall receive.
Thompson's travels have taken him to San Diego for basic training and abroad to Germany, Italy, Syria and the Netherlands. He was in Iraq from February to September.
Thompson was a gunner on teams tasked with recovering downed vehicles.
Although Thompson is hesitant to comment specifically on conflicts he's been involved with in Iraq, he said he's lost friends he's served with while there, including one from Colorado who showed him the ropes when he first arrived.
"It was hard," Thompson said, "because you're right there : and there's nothing you can do."
However, violence doesn't tell the whole tale about the country, he said.
"It's not all like that," Thompson said. "Iraq's not that bad of a place. TV shows what they want people to see. A lot of Iraqis are there to help you. I don't think people see that yet."
Thompson is scheduled to leave Craig on Oct. 25 and return to San Diego for cold-weather training. He said he could be sent to Afghanistan in the summer of 2009.
So far, on his stay home, Thompson has focused on being with his family, and specifically, spending time with Riley.
"That's the best part," he said, "Seeing him."
Joshua Roberts can be reached at 875-1791, or firstname.lastname@example.org.