In the Foreign Legionby Erwin Rosen
That man was I.
I had burned my boats behind me. Not a soul knew where
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A man recognized that life was no longer worth living. A dull feeling of hopelessness came over him. Arid in his hour of despair he remembered the blood of adventure in his veins. A wild life he would have: he would forget. He enlisted as a soldier in the French Foreign Legion.
That man was I.
I had burned my boats behind me. Not a soul knew where I was. Those who loved me should think that I was dead. I lived the hard life of a legionnaire; I had no hopes, no aspirations, no thought for the future; I worked and marched,
slept, ate, and did what I was ordered; suffered the most awful hardships and bore all kinds of shameful treatment. And during sleepless nights I dreamed of love, love lost for ever.
Some five hundred years I wore the uniform of the Legion. So at least it seemed to me. Then the great change came. One day there was a letter for me. Love had found me out across a continent. I read and read and read
again. That was the turning-point of my life. I broke my fetters, and I fought a hard fight for a new career.
Now the jewel "happiness" is mine.
The French Foreign Legion is a military service wing of the French Army established in 1831, unique because it was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces. Commanded by French officers, it is also open to French citizens, who amounted to 24% of the recruits as of 2007.
The Foreign Legion is today known as an elite military unit whose training focuses not only on traditional military skills but also on its strong esprit de corps. As its men come from different countries with different cultures, this is a widely accepted solution to strengthen them enough to work as a team. Consequently, training is often described as not only physically challenging, but due to a number of reasons, extremely stressful psychologically.
The French Foreign Legion was created by Louis Philippe, the King of the French, on 10 March 1831. The direct reason was that foreigners were forbidden to serve in the French Army after the 1830 July Revolution, so the Foreign Legion was created to allow the government a way around this restriction. The purpose of the Foreign Legion was to remove disruptive elements from society and put them to use fighting the enemies of France. Recruits included failed revolutionaries from the rest of Europe, soldiers from the disbanded foreign regiments, and troublemakers in general, both foreign and French. Algeria was designated as the Foreign Legion's home. The army was formed so the government could enforce its rule in Algeria.
The Foreign Legion is the only unit of the French Army open to people of any nationality. All members of the Foreign Legion are men; women are not permitted to join. Most legionnaires still come from European countries but a growing percentage comes from Latin America. Most of the Foreign Legion's commissioned officers are French with approximately 10% being former Legionnaires who have risen through the ranks.
Membership of the Foreign Legion is often a reflection of political shifts: specific national representations generally surge whenever a country has a political crisis and tend to subside once the crisis is over and the flow of recruits dries up. After the First World War, many (Tsarist) Russians joined. Immediately before the Second World War, Czechs, Poles and Jews from Eastern Europe fled to France and ended up enlisting in the Foreign Legion. Ironically, so did many German soldiers, former members of the Wehrmacht, after the end of the conflict. Following the break-up of Yugoslavia, there were many Croats. Also in the 1990s, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the changes in the former Warsaw Pact countries, led to an increase in recruitment from Poland and from the former republics of the USSR.
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