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Damn Snakes

AI picture of King Cobra from snake attack

I hear rustling in the brush, I look over, and my eyes are locked with a giant serpent. I reach for my weapon but drop it into the muddy water. The snake’s huge head stops moving, but his forked tongue darts in and out. I slide slowly backward without taking my eyes off the creature’s bigger-than-life fangs. I’m scared shitless.

The King Cobra coils.

I slowly lower myself to kneeling, and the serpent rises to an attack position as I do. He must be four feet tall!

I hear my buddy say, “Don’t Move.”

The thirteen-foot-long king of snakes rears its head and spreads its neck to form a menacing hood. It begins to sway back and forth. Its fangs are at least half an inch long.

I wet my pants. I’m going to die right here, right now.


The head of the King Cobra explodes.

I turn to my friend, “Thanks, man!”

John Buxley, Vietnam 1969

We were on a mission to check out some double agents and were walking through very heavy jungle. We had to walk straight through the brush, not on a trail or anything. So, we are walking along, and I grab onto a branch to lift it over my head and walk underneath when a snake strikes me on the face just under my left eye. I didn’t realize what had happened; the team filled me in later.

After the strike, I took two or three steps and felt dizzy and lightheaded. I went down to one knee and tried to get back up but fell to the ground. I vaguely remember dreaming of my wife, Sharon. But, in the dream, she was kissing me very sloppily. I remember thinking, Ewe, gross, stop kissing me, that’s disgusting. I was half-conscious. What was really happening was that one of the Montagnards was giving me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Through hazy vision and a fog of bad breath, I do remember his face. He was saying, “I not kissing, I not kissing. Breathe in you! Breathe in you!” They got me back up, but I was unstable and useless to my team. So, the Assistant Team Leader called in a Medevac. Luckily, we were in an area they could enter without getting shot down.

The Montangnards were amazing. They were so fast that the Montangnard, walking behind me and seeing me jerk away from the snake strike, could grab the snake and cut off its head. He then stuck the snake head in my front pocket for the medics to find.

The next day, at the hospital, the doctor shared that I was a fortunate man. The snake that had bitten me was an adult. Had it been a young snake, I likely would have died.

Damn Snakes

North Vietnam, 1968


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