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.

Memorial Day Remembered: Six Facts About This Honorable Day

Memorial Day, an American holiday dedicated to honoring the country’s fallen military personnel, carries with it a rich and poignant history. The following fascinating facts shed light on the depth and significance of this solemn day.

1. Waterloo: The Birthplace of Memorial Day

The tranquil town of Waterloo, New York is acknowledged as the origin of the Memorial Day tradition. On May 5, 1866, local businesses shuttered their doors and townsfolk gathered to adorn the resting places of soldiers with decorations. This marked the first formal observance of what would become an enduring national tradition.

2. Manila American Cemetery: The Largest Collection of American World War II Graves

The Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines holds the record for containing the greatest number of graves for U.S. personnel who lost their lives during World War II. The cemetery is the final resting place of 17,206 individuals, with 16,636 of these belonging to U.S. personnel.

3. The Dutch Tradition at the Margraten American Cemetery

Memorial Day in the Netherlands carries its own unique tradition at the American military cemetery in Margraten. Every Memorial Day, Dutch families participate in a solemn “adoption” ritual, with each family choosing a grave to honor with flowers. This touching tribute ensures that every grave in the cemetery receives a personal commemoration.

4. The Inception of Memorial Day and its Deep Roots in Civil War History

The very first Memorial Day was conceived in the wake of the American Civil War. Freed slaves, in an act of gratitude and respect, held a commemorative funeral for the Union soldiers who had fought for their liberation in 1865.

5. The Unchanging Symbol at the Vietnam Memorial Wall

The Vietnam Memorial Wall holds an indelible symbol of soldiers still missing in action (M.I.A.). Each M.I.A. soldier’s name is etched with a cross, a poignant promise that their loss is not forgotten. However, should a soldier be found, a circle is drawn around the existing cross. To this day, the memorial has no circles, a stark reminder of those yet to return.

6. A Sobering Fact about Vietnam War Casualties

During the Vietnam War, a staggering 61% of U.S troops who were killed were under 21 years of age. Many of these young men had been drafted, their lives abruptly transitioning from adolescence to the harsh realities of war.

These six facts offer just a glimpse into the depth and breadth of the history and significance of Memorial Day. As we remember those who have given their lives for our freedom, let these stories serve as a reminder of the courage, sacrifice, and youth of those we honor.