The Legionnaire’s Thoughts
The Legionnaire is a volunteer.
Most often, he has come to the Legion to escape from his past.
Generally, he has joined because of a personal or family crisis or an upheaval in his social or political life. Striking examples of this can be found in the mass enlistment of Alsatians after 1871, of Spaniards in 1939 and of Eastern Europeans after 1945.
For others, those who are unable to deal with the limitations of a middle-class life, the Legion represents a life of adventure.
In the enlistment procedure, selection is very tough. Many candidates are turned down for medical reasons, or after a thorough study of their individual cases. The legionnaire is seldom an angel but never a criminal.
Once he has joined, under an assumed name if he wishes, the legionnaire enjoys an unequaled protection for as long as he serves, because of the anonymity rule. Only he can decide when to break it.
Coming from all over the world, with such different origins, languages and ideals, it would seem that they have nothing to share.
But they have one thing in common : they refuse to be mediocre. Rejecting easy solutions, the legionnaire has bravely broken with his past and his family.
Having lost his roots, he is ready to give all he has, even his life. This state of mind binds the legionnaires together and explains their unrivaled cohesion sealed with discipline, solidarity and respect for traditions.
The legionnaire is first and foremost a man of action, brave in combat and eager for change. He disdains idleness and routine.
He is generous to the point of sacrificing both his money and his life, and never loses trust in his leaders.
This trust fosters attachment, and the ties between the legionnaire and his leaders include as much respect and admiration as true and sincere affection. Alive, he will follow them everywhere, dead, he will never be abandoned.
That’s why one perceives the Legion as a large family. A man who has left behind his past, his social and family background, transfers to the Legion his need of an ideal, his affection equating the Legion with that of a homeland, to the point of sacrificing everything to it with a generosity which has astonished the world. That accounts for the motto on the front of the Legion’s Museum :