Steve, First, thank you for your Service! Second, your desires are admirable. Third, it's a little difficult to give you some usable advice because too many questions precede the answers. What are you doing after the service? Have a job lined up? Income? Debt? Number of dependents? Wanting to use your VA entitlements? Savings? Comfort level for a monthly payment (this may be very different that a lender will qualify you for).
Congrats on choosing to settle in the Redding area...It is so beautiful around there. Love Shasta Lake area. I understand that you may not want to lay all of your cards on the table on trulia; however, it would be very difficult to answer your questions without specific information. If you would like, please give me a call. No pressure...just the best advice I can offer specific to your situation.