Green clothes : part 1 by thadeusz
This story is based on true facts, except for Chapter 8 which is pure fiction, although it is very plausible in the military spirit of these days in France.
Chapter 1 : Cub scout.
My father, Charles Valmont, was a retired Adjudant Chef of the French Foreign Legion. I don’t know why he joined the Legion: he never told me, but I guess now that there was something rather dark in his past, something he wanted to hide. In any case, I searched but I did not find any trail leading to my grandparents on his side ! The only thing I know for sure is that my father left the Legion in January 1950, aged 41. He told me once that he had tried the tests for Major, the highest NCO rank in the French Army, and was rejected. He was also barred from repeating this exam, so his score was probably very bad. He left the Legion as soon as he could after what he considered a humiliation. He never repeated that unverifiable part of his story. On the contrary, my father kept describing his life in the Legion as "a wonderful time".
He served during 22 years and many of these years were war years. My father had a great respect for the Legion, despite the fact that he was not accepted as Major and he wanted my mother and me to share his love for this institution. Father went every year to Aubagne for the Camerone celebration and wanted me to go with him, but I hated this forced trip during which I met what I considered as old men in pseudo uniform.
My father left the active duty service when he was 41. He immediately "got" a wife, my mother Rosie. I must confess that mother did not seem very intelligent and that most of time, she was unable to resist to my father. She had worked as dressmaker but was now "only" a wife and a mother, which was not nothing in those days. I assume that my father found something else in his wife, and that this "something else" included being served by her in a clean house and having a son.
I was born on November 7 1951 and was named Jacques. So Jacques Valmont was my name !
I had rather long curly hair, but not excessively long. My hair was blond like my father’s. He hated my curly hair and wanted to cut it short in order "to prepare the boy for his future job as soldier". But mother did not like him saying so, he thus stopped early with that "future job" business.
We lived in Vitrolles, a small town near Marseille. Very close by car from the big city (about 30 km) but far enough to feel free. That’s where I was going to school, in Lycée Jean Monnet, when this story actually starts in 1968. Before this starting point, some details must be mentioned.
Since I was born in November, I had to start school at the age of 5. But, apparently, I was an intelligent boy who had already learned to read and write. My teachers gave me several tests and convinced my parents that I should be moved to Grade 2, which was done immediately. My father was rather proud to have a 5 year old son in Grade 2. He was convinced that his "good education" was responsible for that. He apparently completely ignored the discrete lessons my mother had given me to teach me how to read, write and count.
When I reached Grade 6 and entered what in France is called the "Collège", I was only 9 which was really rare. My father decided that I had to join the scouts as cub scout. He claimed that this would "teach me the basis of a disciplined and fruitful life." He chose a group inspired by military discipline more than by children fulfillment or blossoming. This implied a short haircut inspired from Joan of Arc. This meant a round top, not bigger than the green cap you had to put on it. The sides were completely shaven because we had to be "neat" and "clean". We were thus only allowed to keep some hair only below our cub cap. For those of us who had not been to the barber before coming to the meeting, the chief of our group acted as barber with huge hand clippers. The uniform was uniformly green: green socks, green short and green shirt on top of which we had a green pullover and of course our green cap. My father had chosen this troop with lots of discipline, lead by one of his former Legion friends, in order to prepare me for my "future life".
I hated the scouts, the haircut which made me ridiculous at school, I hated the green clothes and the discipline, but I could not avoid all that because of my father’s threat to place me as boarder in a school run by French Army, with even more discipline and a future as soldier !
At the age of 14, for my Birthday, after a long negotiation, my mother got me free from the scouts and from the short and from the ridiculous haircut. Since then I started to have those long hair my fellow students liked and our President hated !
Chapter 2 : the new school.
At the age of 16, I was nearing the end of my Grade 12: 2 years in advance, one because I was born in November and another because I had started in Grade 2. At the end of Grade 12, end of June, we would have the final test: the "BAC".
We were in 1968. I was physically strong, very tall and very strong. I looked like an adult but I was not one yet. In fact, I was still very young and probably very immature, but I was also an excellent student. My professors had suggested that I tried one of the big schools in France, but I wanted to go to the Aix-en-Provence law school, close to us … because I had a girlfriend, Linda, who had decided that she would go there and nowhere else. She was 18, beautiful, very mature, but not as smart as I was.
In May, I participated with Linda in the student demonstrations. It was nearly a revolution and I loved that. I was also rebelling against the discipline imposed by my father. So, I spent a whole night out of my parents’ home, without warning them. I was with Linda and it was marvelous. The weather was nice as usually in our parts in this season. We exchanged kisses, and hugs. Finally Linda suggested that we should go further and I found a little place in a park, on the grass. That’s where and how I had my first sex experience. Moreover, it was with a girl I really loved.
The next morning, we had croissants and coffee in a bar and then we thought that it would be best for both of us to go home.
When I arrived at our little home, my father was waiting for me, standing in the entrance hall. He asked me briskly what had happened. I was naive and proud simultaneously, so I told him all I had done: the protest march, the revolution and … love. As soon as my father had heard that, he told me to take out my clothes, all my clothes, underwear included. He impressed me and, after all, he was my father, so I obeyed him. As soon as I was standing naked in front of him, he told me to lean on a chair back in the kitchen. While I was doing that, he took off his belt and with it, he started whipping my bottom with the leather part of the belt. He then changed and started flogging with the buckle of his belt hitting now my back. I felt that it was seriously hurting and I cried: he had often hit me to punish me, but he had never been so wild. I now think that crying was a mistake: this made him more furious since he felt that his boy was weak. My mother heard me and objected. But that served no purpose. Finally, my father stopped and my mother tried to take care of my back, saying:
"He is full of blood now, full of blood, that’s dreadful."
But my father simply replied:
"Serves him well. He might learn his lesson now."
My father got hold of me, which he could easily do since he was a very strong man, and took me, full of blood and still in the nude, to my room. He told me :
"You wanted it, so stay as you are, don’t get dressed before I tell you to do so."
He then locked me in.
At noon and in the evening, my father entered my room and gave me each time one single slice of bread and one single glass of water. I was afraid and … in the nude. I started to be very anxious because my father still refused to speak to me, because I was now missing important classes at school (or the revolution) … and mostly because I was missing my beloved one, my Linda.
The next morning, my father woke me up at 4 am and told me to put on a jean and a t-shirt. He also told me to take with me two additional briefs. He added:
"I am very angry because of your stupid attitude with the protest march and especially with that girl you mentioned. In fact, she raped you and you did not react. I will take the necessary measures."
Remember that in those days we remained minors until we turned 21. It was compulsory for parents to send their children to school until they reached 16, after that the parents could send their children to work since they were still minors. Marriage at 16 was prohibited and love with someone younger than 18 was a crime.
I was thus afraid that my father was going to take me out of school and send me to work in a factory or in a farm.
My father added:
"I am going to place you in a boarding school where you will learn discipline and also acquire the necessary self-discipline."
"But father, within two months I will have my BAC if I stay in my present school. All my teachers said so."
"Jacques, that’s irrelevant. Discipline is more important than knowledge. I will place you where you he will learn that. Of course, you will have to stay in that special school more than a year. Now do as I told you and keep quiet or I’ll have to use my belt again."
I was really afraid about what my father’s plans were but there was nothing I could do. I was certain now that my father was going to place me in one of the schools organised by the army, as he had threatened to do several times before. I knew he could do that since I was still a minor, and for long, and since my father was an ex-NCO. I was convinced he would place me in an 11th grade and let me thus redo my 12th grade, in an orientation of his choice. I knew it would delay me for my College degree, but I did not know if it would still be possible for me to get a law degree as planned with Linda.
My dreadful father told me to have a solid breakfast because there would be entrance tests in this new school. He added:
"If you fail these tests and are sent back home, then I promise I will flog you and whip you everyday until I find a proper job for you. That’s for your future, you must learn to be more disciplined."
He then pushed me on a back seat of our small family car and locked the "child security" for the car doors. I could no longer get out without my father’s authorization. In other words, I could not escape my fate, whatever it was !
My genitor, I refuse to keep calling him "father", drove very fast to Marseille. We arrived there, near the seaside, around 5 am. The ex-Adjudant Chef who claimed to be my father parked his car in front of a big building, looking like a fort. There was a French flag on top of this building I had never seen before. My father opened the back door and pushed me brutally rapidly towards the fort gate. He did not give me any opportunity to see where we actually were.
We walked towards the main gate. A sentry was waiting there: he was a huge Legionnaire in ceremony dress. At that moment I looked at my father and I noticed that he had put on the clothes he always wore when he went to a Legion ceremony, or to a meeting of former Legionnaires. This convinced me that my father was sending me, against my will, to an army school, possibly a Legion school. I had never intended to go to such a school and I had never even tried to know in details where these schools were located and how they were organized. I had only heard that going to such a school implied that I should later become a soldier … or pay a lot of money to the army. I was thus very anxious now. The only reassuring thought was the fact that it would not last long, just a few months of hard discipline until I got my BAC. And after that I was sure that I would manage to be free.
My own father led me to a small office where a soldier was seated behind a desk. This soldier was dressed in a very elegant uniform (I now know that this Legionnaire was a Master Sergeant, called "Sergent Chef" in the Legion). My father spoke briefly with this Master Sergeant, but I could not hear what he said, except his last words:
"As arranged yesterday by phone with the Colonel".
The Master Sergeant replied loudly: "At your command, ‘mon Adjudant Chef’ "
My father gave him a small piece of paper, still without letting me read what was written on it. The Master Sergeant told me to come near his desk and produced a long document (in fact several sheets of paper) and barked:
"You must sign this document to be accepted in your new school. It will show that you accept the rules of our school."
My father also spoke:
"Jacques, I warn you that if you do not behave well, if you don’t do what this Master Sergeant is asking you to do, you will not be accepted in this excellent school. In that case, I will take you home and you will be flogged daily."
I simply answered: "I know father, you already told me."
"Remember my son that you are here for your own good. As father I must take care of your future. You will stay here longer than you expected, because you have to stay until you are a disciplined man."
I lowered my head and simply said:
"Yes father, I hope mother will also visit me in this school."
The Master Sergeant interrupted our discussion. He placed the documents my father had given him in a big green and red folder. He then spoke to me and said:
"My boy, it is now time for you to sign the document proving that you accept the rules of your new institution".
I stupidly asked:
"May I read it before I sign it ?" That was a result of my pre-training for law school.
My father interfered again:
"Don’t be stupid. Sign this if you don’t want to be whipped severely. I want that this day marks for you a real new start towards a disciplined life, there must thus be a total rupture between your rebellious past and your new life in a military school. For all these reasons, I have arranged things so that, as long as you will be in this school, your name will no longer be Jacques Valmont, but another one which will be given to you by the Master Sergeant".
I was afraid of my father’s reactions, so I replied saying humbly that I would do as requested.
The Master Sergeant simply said:
"Sign immediately and use as name ‘Peter Vandoren’". I was astonished. I knew nothing about military rules, but I obeyed, fearing my father’s whipping. So I signed the document as ‘Peter Vandoren’.
The Master Sergeant called another soldier, whom I soon learned to know as a Corporal. This Corporal was not so elegantly dressed: he simply had an awful green uniform. I assumed that it was normal that Legionnaires in uniform took care of the new pupils of this military school. The Master Sergeant gave my file to the Corporal with the following instruction:
"Take this boy to the next step and start the necessary operations he is going to stay here".
The Master Sergeant gave also a piece of paper to the Corporal, specifying that he had to give it to me "but only when everything is in order with this chap".
The Corporal took me to a room adjacent to the little office and told me to give him all my belongings. I gave him the bag with my additional briefs, but he also wanted the watch my grandparents had offered me for my 13th birthday, the chain I had received from my mother and a small bracelet Linda had given me. He told me to take off all my clothes, except my brief, put them in a bag with the chain, the watch and the bracelet. As soon as I was standing there, nearly in the nude, the Corporal gave me a blue short and a blue t-shirt. He added to that white socks and tennis shoes. He ordered me rather briskly to put on the blue short, the t-shirt, the socks and the tennis shoes he had handed over to me. I did not understand why he was doing that: I had assumed that in a military school the uniform was different, but I was still afraid of my father’s possible reaction, so I obeyed. Remember that I was only 16 and most probably still immature.
After that, everything started to go very fast. The Corporal took me through long and high corridors. The only available light came from small windows placed very high and provided with bars. The whole thing gave a sad first impression for a new school. I was led to several halls where I had to take rapidly some sport tests, all of them too difficult for me. Then there was an IQ test, paper and pencil since we had no computers in those days. The Corporal kept telling me "faster, faster" but nobody seemed to be present to look at what I did, or to grade my tests. I did not see any other boy while the Corporal took me from one hall to another for these different tests. There was no other boy to be seen for the tests or for the classes in that school. I felt strange. I really did not like this school, but I did my best because I was afraid to be sent back home and to be flogged again.
Then came an interview with a soldier again in a nice uniform. I later learned he was a Lieutenant. He wanted to know all about my life. But the interview started badly: I was simply in front of the Lieutenant’s desk in what he considered as non respectuous position. He first asked me:
"Why do you come here ?"
"Well, my father wants me to study here to learn to be more disciplined and get my BAC in two months."
The Lieutenant reacted briskly:
"First when you address me, you have to start with ‘SIR’, understood ?"
I hesitated, but I really did not want to risk to be sent home, so I said:
"Your father has been in the military ?"
"Yes, SIR, he was in the Legion."
"I know that, but you must know what is the position of attention. When you are here, take that position. QUICKLY."
I immediately obeyed.
The Corporal whispered a few words to the Lieutenant who reacted simply by saying: "OK" and turning then his head towards me, he added:
"So you want to come here to get your BAC. You think that it will take you two months only, but your father wants you to stay here longer. It will take a little bit more time. DISMISS."
The Lieutenant gave then the whole file to the Corporal who took me one step further: that was the medical test.
The MD was also in uniform and I learned later that he was a Captain. He told me to undress completely and started to examine me. He looked at my back and asked:
"What happened with your back ?"
I had learned from the previous interview, so I replied:
"SIR, my father decided to punish me because I had behaved badly."
"What did you do ?"
"SIR, I spent a whole night outside and I made love without his consent."
The Captain started to smile and said:
"If you really did what you say you did, your place is actually here."
He then added:
"Everything is OK for me and your file is completed. You can go and get your green uniform."
I could not resist and said:
"A green uniform in this school ? I hate green clothes !"
The Captain burst into laughter and replied:
"This is not a school, this is the Legion. You signed for five years of service in the Legion, young man. You should have known the colour of the uniform before you signed to become Legionnaire!"
"But", I reacted, "it cannot be the Legion. I am only 16 and I must still get my BAC."
"We don’t care about your BAC." The Captain then raised raised his voice and continued:
"You signed to become Legionnaire, Legionnaire you will be. As Legionnaire, you are doomed to wear green clothes, that will be your uniform." He was now shouting "Green underwear, green pants, green shirt, green tie, green socks and GREEN BERET. IF YOU BEHAVE WELL, YOU WILL RAPIDLY GET A WHITE KEPI, that will be the only exception."
"But I am only 16."
"You are not 16. According to your file, you are Peter Vandoren, a Belgian, aged 19. You don’t have a BAC nor any other school diploma and you don’t need any. You are now a Legionnaire, and for good."
The Captain turned towards the Corporal and told him:
"Take this man to his haircut. Let him have a serious one, he must look like a Legionnaire and not like a schoolboy. Let him also get his GREEN uniform and get dressed like the Legionnaire that he is now, instead of these ridiculous blue clothes."
"But you cannot do that", I tried to say.
"Yes, it is the rule here. If you don’t want to obey, Vandoren, I will have to send you to the brig on the first day of your five year contract. UNDERSTOOD."
I realized now the horrible punishment my father had prepared for me and I simply said:
"SIR, yes SIR" like I had heard my father say from time to time.
"Good ! You are a Legionnaire now until the Legion decides to throw you out or your contract is over. And that’s it. And you will wear that green uniform during five years !"
I was furious but could not escape, even if I had dared to risk my father’s anger. The Corporal told me to get QUICKLY dressed. He took me firmly by the left arm and made me move towards a small room where two barbers were working. One was a Legionnaire 1st Class and the other a Corporal. Several Legionnaires, in green uniform, were waiting to have their hair cut. I now fully realized that everything had been neatly organized by my father so that I would no know before the last minute what had been actually planned. In fact I was in a state of panic and did not really know what I should or could do.
The Corporal pushed me on a wooden bench and told me to wait without moving, but I fidgeted and tried to move. So the Corporal told the others :
"This is a new Legionnaire. He signed his contract this morning and wants to go out already"
All the others looked furious towards me.
Nowadays it is possible to leave during the first 6 months, but in those days, once you had signed you were stuck for good. The everyday uniform was also less comfortable and completely green, one of the colours of the Legion. I was thus trapped for 5 years in clothes of the colour I had learned to hate.
Since I kept moving on the bench, the Corporal in charge of the haircut decided:
"Let this new one come immediately here and help me to hold him."
I was forcibly pulled from my bench and brutally pushed in the barber chair. The Corporal who had led me put his two hands on my shoulders and the Corporal-barber got hold of my head, from the front, saying:
"It will be more difficult for me and less comfortable for you, new one who-wants-to-quit, but that will be your fault if you don’t stop moving."
"Give him a good haircut," added my first Corporal, "that’s what the Captain told me."
"I will do better than that. I will turn the chair towards the mirror so he can see what’s happening to him," and he turned the chair adding "now you will really enjoy the fact that you signed to become one of us."
The barber stood in front of me. In those days, he did not have electric clippers, only manual ones. These were painful for a guy like me with long hair, but the barber did not care. He first took a comb to organize my hair in what he considered to be an easy way for him. He then grabbed a chunk of hair, holding my long front locks in his left hand and then he pulled it upwards in such a way that my head was pulled backwards. The barber started to push his clippers in order to make a big trench through my hair, from front to back. I was facing the mirror so I could see what was happening and I felt like crying. The Corporal noticed that and said:
"Do you feel bad about your hair, new guy ? Have a good cry now, you won’t see them back before five years."
I swallowed my tears and decided to try to behave as well as I could.
The barber got hold of my head by placing his hand on my front, just where the lost hair had been. He then pushed my head backwards using his right hand and started to plow through my nice locks, immediately to the left of the first line. Then to the right of this disastrous line. I could still see his actions and realized that it was beyond repair. He then pushed my head on my right shoulder and started to shave completely the left part of the head, this time going with his clippers from top to bottom. He did the same afterwards with the right part, pushing my poor head onto my left shoulder. He passed several times on the same place to be sure that not a single stub was left. He also cleaned my neck and everything around my ears, several times. He changed rapidly clippers, taking smaller ones, while still holding my head, and starting to clean in details my ears, around my ears, under my nose, until there was nothing left. He took less time to do all that than I needed to describe it. As soon as he was done, he said:
"Stand up now and look at your neat image, new guy."
I looked, as I had looked while he was destroying my haircut and I felt again like crying, but I succeeded to avoid that. I had the impression to look like a convict, or at least the image of a convict we had seen at school.