When I was in Burma on my first trip, we had a guide leading us through the jungle who seemed to know every inch of the place. This was before my military experience, and I was fairly young and certainly dumb, but I did my best to follow all instructions laid out by light hearted, humorous but ultimately rough man who accompanied us. We would walk for a while, take a break, drink water, and then walk again. On and on and on — it was a good introduction into rucking.

Our guide always told me never to step off the path — there were landmines strewed about in that neck of the woods, and though the paths had been cleared fairly recently, no one had cleared beyond the paths. If you had to pee, you had to do it from the safety of the path, or in a designated area that was cleared. It wasn’t a big deal and it wasn’t a big source of drama — just stay on the path, which was a pretty easy thing to do, considering the rest of it was thick, merciless jungle that would probably kill me landmines or not.

We eventually wound up on a dried up creek bed, heaving our way up the rocks one by one. I had to relieve myself, so I stepped to the side of the same creek bed, sure to stay on the larger rocks.

I got yelled at. Despite the fact that we were on a large creek bed full of boulders and huge rocks where nothing could be buried, the threat was still very real. The guide was taking us a specific way through the creek bed, and I had wrongfully assumed that meant the entire creek bed was clear and safe. Deviating from that path was an absolute no-go. Would anything likely happen to me if I stepped on a large, obviously clear boulder that was off the path? It’s not likely, as something would have had to be placed under or right next to the boulder, but people shouldn’t bet their lives on things that probably won’t happen, especially out there.

Needless to say, I was snapped back to reality and I didn’t deviate from the path again.

An injured elderly woman and her relatives rush to a hospital on an autorickshaw, near the border town of Kutupalong, Bangladesh, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. The Rohingya woman encountered a landmine that blew off the right leg while trying to cross into Bangladesh. AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

The conflicts in Myanmar/Burma are consistently hitting international news — be it in regards to the violence up in Kachin State, the teetering cease fire with the Karen, or of course the massive offensive against the Rohingya and their subsequent refugee crisis on the border of Bangladesh. The military’s tools of war are generally things like small arms or indirect fire, and some terrorism-style violence like using rape as a weapon. The biggest killer is undoubtedly the devastation of any semblance of a health care system, which winds up with scores of people losing their lives to preventable diseases, like diarrhea or malaria, or skyrocketing infant mortality rates.

However, there is another prevalent danger that literally lies just beneath the surface: landmines.

Mines are scattered all across the Burmese countryside; many are remnants from old conflicts, many have been strategically placed more recently.