Note: This article is part of a series. You can read part one, part two, and part three here.

We began the sweep as planned. There were a whole load of individual firefights everywhere. We were taking a ton of automatic fire from one hut in particular. I gave it a full service with the Minimi before someone hit it with a LAW. It quickly became all quiet on the western front.

During the next half hour or so, things quieted down, only to start up again without warning. I heard over the radio that Dan had been hit. I’d no idea how seriously. No time to think about it, either. Another firefight erupted. I took cover in the nearest pit. No problem there—I had cover from view and cover from fire. Very cozy.

Except then there was a pain even worse than my broken hand—all over. The whole of my groin and the tops of my legs were under attack from an even more lethal enemy than the West Side Boys. Fire ants! Millions of them! I was faced with a decision that wasn’t really too difficult: I could stay and suffer the agony of endless injections of formic acid, or shoot across some open ground into the long grass 20 yards away. I made it to cover no problem, but I’d taken half the nest with me and would spend the rest of the engagement alternately looking for the enemy while jumping around and howling in pain.


Objective of Operation Barras

No one knows how many West Side Boys died that day. In my view, not enough. When young girls whose arms have been amputated at the wrist or elbow hold out their one good limb begging for food on the roadside, you know that there’s only one form of justice needed. And that’s what we delivered that September morning 15 years ago.

The stained glass window at Saint Martins church