BUGS AND OTHER LIFE FORMS
Bugs, bugs, bugs. I think Vietnam held the patent on weird creatures big and
small. It had mosquitoes, leeches, flies, worms, beetles, spiders, centipedes, and assorted
critters no one had ever seen before. Not to mention the plants that glowed in the dark.
One of my earliest experiences was with a spider. I had only been in country for
about a month. I opened my eyes one morning, wondering why my vision was
obstructed. There were these dark lines, like the fingers of a black hand, running across
my field of vision. I unconsciously brushed my hand over my eyes, and knocked the
biggest spider I have ever seen from my face.
The furry bugger had decided to take a little nap on my face while I slept. He
must have been 9 or 10 inches across. The dark lines that I had been looking through
were his legs. Apparently, it was harmless, but it still managed to scare me shitless. I
was not accustomed to insects the size of dinner plates.
Later, while posted at ASP (Ammo Supply Point #1), I would run into one of his cousins. I was sitting on
watch with my left arm resting on the top of the sandbag wall of the bunker. It was hot,
as usual, and I had my sleeves rolled up. I suddenly felt something crawling along my
arm. I looked down to see what appeared to be an African Chief’s tiger tooth necklace.
You know, one tooth facing up, the other down. This necklace was walking across my
arm. Only for a moment. I jumped up, freaked out, and chambered a round in my M-14
as I shook this example of the stone age off of me. The noise woke Roberts as I was
starting to seriously consider shooting that monstrous bug. He sat up and looked at the
thing on the bunker floor and said it was a centipede. It was like no centipede I’d ever
seen before and I wanted nothing further to do with it. I kicked it out of the bunker while
Our early patrols almost had us shooting up the landscaping. That is until we
grew used to the fact that this country had PLANTS that glowed in the dark, like a
luminous watch dial. You could walk down a trail and see these faint greenish glows up
ahead, off to the sides of the path. Until you saw patches of them a few times and felt
them to make sure they were real, it was spooky. You felt like you were walking the
moors, in some Hollywood movie, with the Wolf-man getting ready to howl not far off in
The final insult that the bugs gave me was to turn me into a Gook. I woke up one
morning and while shaving, I noticed that my eyelids had puffed up and the folds in them
had disappeared. The swelling had also slanted my eyes. I finished shaving and went up
to see the Corpsman. When I showed him my eyes he said, “Yeah, there’s a lot of that
goin’ around.” I gave him a dirty look and said, “Very funny, but what the hell caused
it?” He told me that he was serious about there being a lot of it. He had been seeing a lot
of cases, probably caused by insect bites. He gave me some antibiotics and said that the
swelling would probably go away in a day or so. It did, but in the interim, I was the
Battalion’s resident Caucasian Gook.