Tuesday, August 6

Tearless, Fearless, so why so Strange?


If I’m honest, I might have expected more emotion. Not that leaving behind my home of 5 years, my regiment in the isolated alpine foothills with scorching summers and apocalyptic winters wasn’t an emotionally charged experience, but rather how I was surprised the experience manifested itself less as a sustained sensation and more in short bursts of euphoric highs followed by gaping nothings. Every parting handshake spread across the past month or so sent a brief message to my brain, telling it “This is the last time you’ll ever shake this hand, see this face, hear this voice”, a message momentarily heeded and cherished, before being unceremoniously discarded, seeing itself wiped directly off the hard-drive, not even lingering in the recycle bin, if only for a while, for old times ‘sake.

Navigating the final few weeks of my contract here in the French Foreign Legion was a rather surreal affair. Surreal and extremely monotonous. I was left to my own devices to an obscene level, the plethora of time-tabled activities no longer concerning me as preparation for another 4-month mission in French Guiana erupted, exploded and cascaded all around me, trapping young recruits and seasoned, wearied veterans in its eerie, stubbornly incessant flow. Apart from morning sport, I was required for nothing save the occasional consultation of my leaving dossier, whereby they’d request a photocopy of some document before liberating back into the custody of my room and laptop. Freedom appeared more of a prison than the daily routine of the guys trucking onwards with their contracts. A seed of doubt for some, a cunning trick worth recognizing as such for others. I didn’t waiver, couldn’t so close to the end. My guns had been stuck to this far, not long to go now.

In spite of my differences with my platoon commander, when the time came for my “official” leaving party, and I was called upon to step forward and receive my parting gift, he spoke rather eloquently and without malice. Irrespective of the presence of the company captain and other lieutenants, I found his words to carry a sincerity all the same, as if – this close to the end – it was mere water under the bridge. I graciously accepted my gift (an ornate knife with my rank and name engraved in the blade), shook his hand firmly, and attempted to slip back into the crowd. Alas, a speech was demanded, and I accepted the challenge willingly (surprise surprise!!!). To paraphrase the main gist, I stated my firm belief that, whether leaving or staying beyond the five years, to each their own so long as you’re sure of your choice. I thanked everyone present for having contributed to my time at the 3rd company of 2REG, and wished them all the best for the future. Nice, neat, diplomatic. I may just run for office one day!

That, of course, was the “official” party where we, the soon-to-be-departed invite all the big wigs and superiors to bid us farewell. The ACTUAL leaving party was held the night before and how the young legionnaires (naturally charged with the mission of cleaning up after the corporals’ messy arses) managed to render it presentable the next morning is a wonder. Knee-deep blankets of broken bottles enveloped the tiled floor as the music and beer flowed to almighty levels, the Corporal Chef overseeing the “safety” of the event being quickly exiled to the corridor as we locked the door to crank proceedings up a notch. Watching some of the videos the next day extracted more than a few sheepish expressions, but no doubt further down the line those expressions will turn from sheepish to sheer pride and nostalgia.

In the present, when the Friday arrived I climbed on to the bus for the last time, pulled out through the gates of my regiment for the last time, and instead of sleeping the entire journey to the train station my eyes stayed wide and searching, across the mountainous countryside, winding down through the various picturesque towns and villages. I listened more keenly than ever to the almost unfathomably wide range of languages and accents colouring the journey, soaking it all up, taking it all in.

I might have been slightly perplexed at the lack of poignancy. Give it time…..

11 comments:

  1. Congratulations, well done. From reading your blog from start to finish, I wasn't a million miles from tearing up myself ;). I'm planning to start the journey in January and if it's not too much trouble I'd appreciate it if I could email you closer to that time for some advice. To be honest I just really want a shiny knife with my name on it ;).

    All the best and best of luck getting back into civilian life.

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    1. Daniel is the lucky one of three Irish who got in on the 24th of march 2014, if its the Daniel i think this is, cant wait to hear from u somehow pal, and please tell me the Moroccan fucked up and left, the legion is the legion, to people who talk shit,stop, book a ticket and stop talking shit, thanks Leon Kelly, good luck O'Mahony.

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    2. I'm coming late to this party, what's happening here with Daniel and Moroccan's?

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  2. I've followed your blog for the last 2-3 years and you got the most out of FFL and now you've moved on.
    I'm still stuck in my boring swedish office.

    Have a smashing future !!!

    :-)

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  3. Well done Dermot. You can enjoy Christmas at home this year. I'm sure you will easily slide back into civvie street. You'll be growing back some cells in that atrophied brain of yours when you start your studies in the coming months.
    Thanks for the occasional laugh.
    Mulgarat

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  4. I remember leaving my national army after 2 years of service, all the handshakes, goodbyes, running through different warehouses to get signatures that I did posess any of state's material anymore... and finally driving through the gates for the last time, thinking how many days the poor fellows standing on guard had left. This was after two years, I can barely imagine how you feel after five.

    Don't allow yourself to dive into "soldiering". Once home you'll most probably feel that you've had five years of shite and now you may rest and do nothing. In the long run that'll contribute only strengthening nostalgia and depression of how civilians are a disgusting race. Find hobbies or civvy life will eat you.

    Other than that, I hope you all the best. Your blog was a great read and you should try to get it published. Godspeed!

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  5. Well Done. I have followed your blog for years.

    Kinda sorry to see it end.

    Good luck!

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  6. Daniel made commission along with a Moroccan who got caught sleeping twice during the day, and after 5 days could still not make his own bed, collective punishment, i feel for everyone who has to work with him. I went and tried myself and was left standing as the rest went for a free haircut and im just thinking "what the fuck was all that just about". Sitting waiting with about 8 lads for our motivation interview all heads stuck forward hands on knees backs stright no slouchy or leaning against the wall,Great, no, one French lad decided to go and make a hot chocolate! He then decided to sit down with it and cross his legs, head sideways gazing down the corridor slurping from it like a cow sucking on teeth, long story short he got caught by a Sargent,went missing for two days arrived back on Thursday 12ish,just in time for commision, yup he made it in to the legion, annoying how people like this get in and good people dont, o well , at least i own my own AssHole

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    1. Hi Leon, this is Daniel's sister. We still haven't heard from him and would love to hear anything about him; how he was, what stage he's probably at. Thanks, Jill.

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  8. Hey,jill if ur from Waterford and he was a archaeology aged27 then he was i high spirits the last time i seen him, he got a free hair cut that he is going too remember for the rest of his life, he really really wanted to get in and he did so he is in a good mind set, the legion is hard but so is he so he will be ok, he went on to the next stage of his journey with some very good lads, if he makes it the whole way without injury, nothing big, u run alot in there so legs hurt easy,you should hear from him 4 months after he left,dont be worried, it is a good and safe place to be and he will be on top form when you hear from him, not long now :)

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