The jungle is a fascinating place. It was never one of my chosen vacation spots, but because I had to be there, I was able to see the jungle in its entirety, so to speak, from an objective point of view.

From a distance, like from 1,000 feet up in the sky sitting in a helicopter, the place is a paradise. I remember watching a movie where one of the main characters said the same thing. The only difference was that I was actually there in person, not in front of a boob tube.

Being there in person had its ups and downs. For starters, you feel the weather. The humidity, heat, the rain, the wind (if there were any). Then there were the foliage. Lots of foliage. There were walls of foliage. Unbelievable amount of foliage. In some places, it was so thick it was totally impassible.

Then there were the inhabitants, not the human kind. The creepy crawly kind. They were everywhere. For instance, if you had to cross a pond on foot, you had to check yourself for leeches. The best way to get rid of them, as it was shown to me, was to light up a cigarette and burn them off your skin.  I hate leeches. They give me the creeps.

We were also told; if you were going to take a drink from your canteen under a tree, keep the opening covered. Why? There are parasites that would fall from the tops of trees and fall onto you, and might fall into your canteen without you knowing. Some of those bastards that feed off you, believe it or not, were the very leeches that I hate. They follow you, moving like a slinky through the trees. Then there were those damn centipedes and the millipedes. If one of those ever bit you, well, good luck. There were times we’d be near a body of standing water and we’d be there for a couple of days. We hated that, too. The jungle mosquitoes are something else. I swear they can suck a pint of blood out of you before you realize you’ve been bit.

If the insects weren’t bad enough, you would move up the animal hierarchy onto creatures like cobras and snakes that can fly. I actually saw one of the old timers shoot one right out of the sky as it was flying from a tree to another tree with a shotgun. That’s how I was introduced to them. Fortunately, my unit and I never came across the man-eating big cats that were known to inhabit the region where we were.

There was a time when I mistook a bullet flying by my ear with a mosquito until I realized that it was daylight and hell broke out right after. I had questioned my own sanity when I started to get confused between a bug and the start of a firefight.

I went to my X.O. to see if I was losing my mind, like in shell shock or something. He reassured me, “Yup, you have lost your mind, but not to worry, we’ve all been there and if not, you’ll get there soon enough.”

I walked out of Scepter’s office with a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth. Then I realized, we were intruding in a world not our own, but one ruled by Mother Nature. We didn’t belong there. If it wasn’t for the bad guys, we would never had to be there in the first place.

If It Wasn’t For the Bad Guys