5 Tidbits about the French Foreign Legion

Kabul, Afghanistan - circa, 2011. Legionnaire of the French Foreign Legion is on duty during a combat mission in Afghanistan.
Photo by depositphotos.com

Established in the 19th century, The French Foreign Legion stands out for its unique traditions and diverse membership. Let’s delve into some lesser-known aspects of this fascinating group:

1. A New Identity on Entry: Joining the French Foreign Legion isn’t a straightforward affair. Recruits must adopt a pseudonym upon entering. After a year, they can either revert to their original name or, if they have legal entanglements, the Legion assists in formalizing the new identity.

2. A Melting Pot of Warriors: Standing as a beacon of unity in diversity, the French Foreign Legion is distinctive in welcoming members from any nationality. More impressively, a Legionnaire wounded in the line of duty can immediately apply for French citizenship, embodying the principle of “Français par le sang versé” – becoming French through spilled blood.

3. The Lone Female Legionnaire: Susan Travers holds the unique distinction of being the only woman ever to have served in the French Foreign Legion. She chose to share her incredible journey at the age of 91, ensuring her tale was told only after the other actors in her story had departed.

4. Tattoo Regulations: While tattoos are common in military cultures worldwide, the French Foreign Legion is particular about their acceptability. Tattoos deemed “foolish” are grounds for rejection, underlining the Legion’s strict code of conduct and standards.

5. Dress Code with a Statement: The sappers, a subset of the Legion, don an ensemble that is a blend of tradition and utility. Their attire features large beards, protective leather aprons, and ceremonial axes, making them an iconic presence in parades and official ceremonies.

6. Singular Commitment to Service: On embarking on their journey with the French Foreign Legion, every recruit, regardless of marital status, is enlisted as a single individual. The inaugural contract is non-negotiable, binding the recruit for a term of five years. As time progresses and the legionary advances in rank and standing, considerations regarding starting a family become viable. However, the Legion has clear stipulations in place: a legionary can only contemplate marriage once he serves under his true identity and maintains an impeccable record.

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