I was an a combat vet of the Vietnam War and when I returned to normal society I could not “fit” in…..it was difficult to go from intense situations of combat to the mundane crap of “normal” society.
I went through several jobs nothing was clicking for me and I then considered after talking to a friend to join the French Foreign Legion….luckily for me my wife was pregnant and I did not want to leave before my daughter was born.
The Legion is a fascinating history…..
The word “foreign” in the name French Foreign Legion does not refer to faraway battlegrounds. It refers to the Legion itself, which is a branch of the French Army commanded by French officers but built of volunteers from around the world. Last summer I came upon 20 of them on a grassy knoll on a farm in France near the Pyrenees. They were new recruits sitting back-to-back on two rows of steel chairs. They wore camouflage fatigues and face paint, and held French assault rifles. The chairs were meant to represent the benches in a helicopter flying into action—say, somewhere in Africa in the next few years to come. Two recruits who had been injured while running sat facing forward holding crutches. They were the pilots. Their job was to sit there and endure. The job of the others was to wait for the imaginary touchdown, then disembark from the imaginary helicopter and pretend to secure the imaginary landing zone. Those who charged into the imaginary tail rotor or committed some other blunder would have push-ups to do immediately, counting them off in phonetic French—uh, du, tra, katra, sank. If they ran out of vocabulary, they would have to start again. Eventually the recruits would stage a phased retreat back to their chairs, then take off, fly around for a while, and come in for another dangerous landing. The real lesson here was not about combat tactics. It was about do not ask questions, do not make suggestions, do not even think of that. Forget your civilian reflexes. War has its own logic. Be smart. For you the fighting does not require a purpose. It does not require your allegiance to France. The motto of the Legion is Legio Patria Nostra. The Legion is our fatherland. This means we will accept you. We will shelter you. We may send you out to die. Women are not admitted. Service to the Legion is about simplifying men’s lives.
The Legion can trace their history back to 1481 and the Swiss Hundred (cent suisse)…..a unit of 100 elite soldiers to King Louis XI….(but check out the history of this legendary unit)…
But the legion of today was the answer to a pressing problem for France…..
The legion was conceived as a provisional solution to a fleeting problem —the migration of undesirable persons into France in the wake of revolutions throughout Europe in 1830–31.
In retrospect, a military remedy to illegal immigration appears both contemporary and imaginative. The July Revolution of 1830 had resuscitated the French Revolutionary concept of a citizen army and led to disbandment of the Swiss Guards and other foreign formations that had enforced Bourbon mastery of such uprisings. To address the resulting coagulation of refugees in French cities, King Louis-Philippe on March 9, 1831, signed into law an act creating a ghetto foreign force within a citizen army. Recruiters quickly enlisted the undesirable aliens and packed them off to Algiers — et adieu, la Légion!
After reading this post (I presume that it was read) and you fancy yourself a Legionaire……I can help with that as well…..https://en.legion-recrute.com/
This is a fascinating unit and their history of bravery and honor is storied…..
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”