If you are still on active duty, I would check your branch sources for a) credit repair sources and b) see if there is a VA mortgage representive on base. Then I would contact a realtor with a large, well-known real estate brokerage and see if they have a mortgage broker who is knowledgable about VA loans. Through the VA, you can check the status and amount of $ available to you for a loan or that VA loan person can guide you.
Repairing your credit. See if there is a Coldwell Banker office near you, as we are affiliated with a couple of nationwide mortgage brokers and request a copy of different steps to repair your credit and another form which lists the steps to take prior to making a home purchase. Your credit score is one number today and is checked when a mortgage broker gets a pre-approval for a loan and then is rechecked prior to closing on a purchase. Too often buyers check too many mortgage sources and sometimes made large purchases prior to a purchase and that can reduce your credit below the accepted threshold.
If you cannot locate these Buyer Guideline forms, drop me an email and I will send you the ones I use to help buyers.
Lastly, you say "so I don't get taken advantage of". I don't understand what you mean unless you have had a bad experience. Do share that experience with the mortgage broker, so they can help you. The lower your credit score, the higher the mortgage interest will be. Rules are different on VA loans and that is why you need to find a mortgage broker who has lots of experience in accomodating you.
When looking for your home, I would interview a couple of agents and find one you like and will trust. They can set you up on your local MLS to get current listings that meet your criteria.
By the way, if you are considering purchasing in a rural area, ask the mortgage broker if a property will qualify for a 100% USDA loan. This loan comes from the Fed Agriculture Department.
Coldwell Banker Sarasota