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Green clothes : part 4 by thadeusz
Section 6. the deserter
Since I had not reported to the police station, a "missing" report was sent to my regiment, the 2 REP. The regiment warned the Legion headquarters which sent the Legion Military Police (PLE) to my father’s home. My dear father was furious. He told the PLE Legionnaires that he had never been in contact with me since my enlistment: he complained that I had not even told him in which regiment I was and which was my Legion name. He had the audacity to add:
"After all the help I gave him to join !"
He then, nastily, suggested that the PLE should go to his ex-wife’s home where he assumed that I might be hiding (which was correct). The Legionnaires of the PLE came to my mother’s home where I was being reunited with Linda. They found me and I told them that I was simply trying to start again my studies as civilian I even added:
"I never wanted to join the Legion, my father forced me and I don’t intend to go back".
The PLE detachment arrested me and forced me to put on the uniform they found in the little bag I had taken with me from Corsica, saying I wanted to give a good impression to my father. I was handcuffed and lead back to that fort in Marseille where all my miseries had begun. I was immediately sent to the military jail, facing a trial for desertion. In the jail, I was stripped of my nice uniform and told to put on old fatigues they gave me.
When the trial day arrived, one month later, I was 17 and 8 months, I was thus still a minor, but I was older than 17 and 6 months, the minimum age for an enlistment in the Legion. In the fort, they had given me my outing uniform back and told me to put it on for the hearing. My mother had hired a civilian lawyer for me and this lawyer had succeeded to speak with me during a very short period of time: 30 minutes, but he said that it was enough.
The military court was composed of two officers, a Colonel and a Captain, and one NCO, none of them belonging to the Legion. These judges tried many cases: some had been AWOL, some had stolen, one had refused to pay in a bar and started a fight. The procedure was always the same: a Corporal serving as court clerk announced the name of the soldier to be judged and the accusation. The Colonel asked the accused to say whether he admitted having committed "the crime", the soldier always said that he recognized having done what was mentioned in the accusation, the Colonel whispered something to his assistants ears and then pronounced the sentence which varied from three months to two years in military jail for the bar fighter. None had been accused of desertion.
Then the court clerk called my name and mentioned the accusation: desertion. He also mentioned my father as possible witness: my beloved genitor was ready to state under oath that I really wanted to join the Legion, contrary to what I had stated to the PLE (but how did he know that fact ?). He was also ready to state that my mother and himself had given a written consent for my early enlistment, since I was still a minor. The Colonel asked me if I recognized the facts, but my lawyer interrupted the proceedings as follows:
"Colonel, I must object to this judgement since my client is not in the military."
The Colonel was nonplussed and barked more than asked: "How is that possible ?"
"First, this was a forced enlistment: the father of my client told him that he was taking my client to a school organized by the Army and that he was ready to whip him if he did not do well in this school. In fact it was the Legion where the father had already prepared everything."
"I cannot accept this argument," replied the Colonel, "there is no proof of it. We have a witness in court who is ready to tell the court, under oath, that this enlistment was voluntary."
"In that case I will add that my client was still a minor and that there is no written authorization signed by both parents."
"We don’t have that document in court, so we must accept the Legion assertion saying that they have a document signed by both parents."
"My client’s mother is here and ready to state under oath that she never signed such a document. If the Legion has it, it must be a forged signature."
"That’s irrelevant Mister, there are many cases of courageous young men who enlist voluntarily before being of age."
"Finally, I must state to the court that my client was only 16 when he was forced to join the Legion. This is easy to check since he is born in November 1951 as his birth certificate can prove it."
The Colonel started to whisper to the ears of the Captain and of the NCO, they discussed lengthily and finally the Colonel concluded:
"Mister, your client deserted. That is a proven fact. This court has no means to know whether his enlistment was actually forced or nullified by the fact that one of the parents did not sign the required authorization. But it is a fact that he was only 16 when he joined the Legion. This nullifies thus his enlistment. This court cannot judge him for his dishonorable act, we can only give him a blame, but we must let him go free as the air because he is not a soldier."
The Colonel had given the order to set me free and I decided to leave immediately the Courthouse. My mother was still discussing something with my lawyer, but I wanted to be alone in order to go and join my girlfriend Linda.
At the exit of the Courthouse, several Legionnaires, with a PLE armband, were waiting for me. There were two Corporals and a Lieutenant. This last one gave an order and the two Legionnaires got hold of me, one by each arm. The Lieutenant handcuffed me and they pushed me into their car. The Lieutenant told me:
"We don’t care for the final Court decision. Other boys your age have voluntarily enlisted. They are now good Legionnaires."
One of the Corporals placed a chain on my ankles and they brought me back to the old fort. There, they took off the shackles, told me to change rapidly into the old fatigues I had before going to court, and when that was done, they pushed me in my former cell.
I was now in the brig. The next day, they chained me again and I was transferred to my paratrooper regiment, back in Corsica. On the same ship, there was a group of new Legionnaires, but I was in a cell, without bread nor water, downstairs in the ship. This is how I came back to my regiment ! I don’t mention here the fact that my guards kept giving me punches and kicks all over my body. They also insulted me because I was a traitor, a deserter. But none of them tried to understand that the first and main traitor was my father, my natural protector !
Two days later, I had to appear in front of a special council made of officers of the Legion only. They concluded that I had deserted and they decided to send me to the Legion Disciplinary Section for 6 months. I was then brought back to a cell in the brig, separated from all my comrades.
The next day, I was told to take the two bags containing all my kit and pieces of equipment. One bag was chained to my right wrist and the other to my left wrist. I was still wearing the old fatigues I had received in the fort, in Marseille. I did not understand why I was not allowed to carry my bags as usually, one on my back and one in front of me. This new situation was really uncomfortable. I was then handcuffed and told to step in an old jeep with two Corporals I did not know. The Corporals brought me to a little path in the mountain. One of the Corporals told me that this was the entrance of the Disciplinary Section and that I would have to go to the section itself by foot. The other Corporal took the handcuffs off, but let the two bags attached to my wrists. The Corporals found it pleasant to give me a dog collar and to attach it to the back of their jeep. I was thus forced to run behind the jeep. From time to time they told me to crawl on the ground while pulling my bags behind me, or to march as a duck: meaning marching nearly seated, but without chair. I found all this very painful, but I was too afraid of what was expecting me at the end to even think of crying. The path was going uphill which made it even more painful.
When I reached the end of this path, I was presented to the Section Commander, an old Master Sergeant. This Master Sergeant instructed the Corporals who had served as guards on my way to this place to free me from my bags. He then told me:
"Prisoner, you have rather lengthy hair for a Legionnaire."
It is a fact that since the day I deserted, I had no longer had my weekly head shave. The Master Sergeant added:
"Moreover it is curly blond hair, and I hate that. Kneel in front of me. NOW."
Not knowing what was going to happen, I obeyed. It is in this ridicule position that he gave me a brutal headshave, taking sometimes more than the skin. Finally he told me to get rid of all my clothes. One of Corporals noticed that I looked very young. The Master Sergeant reacted immediately:
"Since he looks so young, let him be completely shaved. STAND UP, prisoner and DON’T MOVE."
The Corporals started to shave my body. They did a thorough job, shaving completely my body and thus shaving all possible parts: under my arms, on my chest, etc. Finally they reached my crotch. One of the Corporals got hold of my penis and while the others were laughing I tried to stay motionless, as told by the Master Sergeant. It was the first time a man had ever touched that part of my body and I found it very difficult to stay still. That’s where I decided to try to be unmoved, whatever physical punishment they used for me.
The Corporal started to shave that part of my body, known only by my mother, when I was a baby unable to wash, and more recently only by Linda. One of these guards dressed in a Legionnaire uniform asked loudly:
"Do you think that nice boy is gay ?".
Remember I was only 17 but I was getting more mature by the second !
"This boy is too young, he is unable to have any sexual activity."
At this moment, while one Corporal was still holding my penis, I felt that mys weapon was getting harder and harder. After a certain time, despite my mental efforts, I ejaculated. The Master Sergeant, who was of course looking, simply said:
"What a dirty boy you are. Corporal, place him in a cell."
I was still naked. The Corporal assigned to me pushed me towards the basement of a small one floor building. The cells were there. I was locked in one of them. The cell was small, there was dirty water on the floor and there was nearly no light. There was no furniture and the ceiling was so low that I could not stand and the cell was too small to lie on the wet floor. Since I could neither stay nor lie on the wet floor, I had to stay seated. I tried to stay in that position, using the cell wall as back. Another Corporal, serving as guard like the other ones looked through a small opening in the cell door. When he saw me relying on the cell wall, he came brutally in the cell, he hit me with a truncheon and told me that I could not lean against the wall. As special punishment for this "dreadful behaviour", I had to stay during 30 minutes with folded legs, keeping my bottom up as if I was sitting on an imaginary chair. I also had to sing "Le Boudin" repeatedly during all that time. I was 17 and 9 months old !
I had to stay during a full week in this cell. Later I learned that this was the case for all Legionnaires sent to this Disciplinary Section. After that I was told that I was sentenced to hard labour: I had to spend my days breaking uselessly a huge rock into pieces with a heavy hammer or moving a big mound of earth with a small shovel from one place to another. When I was done, I was told to move it back. When the Corporals guarding me (and the other prisoners) were not satisfied by the amount of work I had achieved, I was simply whipped. There were many other painful punishments, many other forms of torture, which were inflicted to me and to the other guys sent to this Disciplinary Section.
Every Saturday, I had a weekly head shave while kneeling in front of a Corporal. It was a brutal head shave and it left scars which I still have, but I was pleased to have it: this was my only way to know the days of the week and the time I had already spent in this very special section.
After about two months, I was severely whipped after a room inspection for no real reason, simply because the Corporal in charge wanted to do so. The next night I escaped and tried to desert once again. Unluckily, after two days of apparent freedom in Corsica, I was arrested by the guards. Once again I had to climb the little path. I was told to abandon all my clothes once more. Once again the Master Sergeant inflicted me a complete shaving, head and body. The Corporals were betting as to how long I would resist having a solid erection with the same consequences as the first time. But I was now mentally much stronger and I succeeded to avoid having any ejaculations. In fact I concentrated my attention on Linda trying to be as strong as she would want me to be. Curiously that helped me forgetting what the Corporals were doing with my penis. The Corporals realized that I was now mentally stronger than they wanted me to be, and that made them angry. I was whipped once more, but I started to get used to it. I was then again sent to a cell, but I had saved my self respect !
About two weeks later he was extracted from his cell and the Commandant told me what the additional punishment would be, for this attempted desertion:
"The Minister has decided that your stay here will last 9 months and not 6 months. I add to that a weekly complete head and body shave. On top of this, you will from now on stay at night in a special isolation room in order to stop you conspiring with other detainees. Every morning a chain will be placed on your ankles with a heavy convict ball. That will stop you trying to desert."
That’s how I spent the last 7 months of my time in this Special Section.
During all my remaining time in this Disciplinary Section, I had to keep doing stupid hard labours ! My muscles became much stronger, and mentally I became also much stronger. I realized, with my clever mind, that life would be better for me if I tried to do as if I accepted gracefully the discipline the guards imposed on him.
I survived the bad treatments only because I was now, despite my young age, mentally prepared to resist any form of pressure from my guards, any attempt to transform me into a submissive worm unable to think by himself. It was hard, very hard on certain occasions, but keeping in mind the fact that after all that I would be free and thus able to be again with Linda, I decided to put up with all that torture while giving my guards the impression I had become a good and obedient Legionnaire.
One week before my time was over, I was called in the Master Sergeant’s office. This Master Sergeant served as Camp Commandant for the Disciplinary Section. He told me:
"Vandoren, your conduct is now acceptable. I might thus send you back to a Legion regiment for the remaining part of your contract."
But this Master Sergeant immediately added:
"If you simply go back to your original regiment, everybody will know that you are an ex-con. I thus suggest that you sign now a new 5 year contract, with a new name and a new Matricule number. You must be aware that if you don’t accept this new contract, it might mean that you are not ready to leave this Disciplinary Section."
I was now, apparently, a very disciplined Legionnaire. I had also understood that I better considered the Master Sergeant’s words as ‘perfect’ suggestions, otherwise he still had one week to punish me severely and get for me another extension of stay in his section. I also realized that since I was now more than 18 but still without BAC, I would have problems finding a school or a job on civvy streets. So I chose to accept this new contract which would give me 5 more years servitude in the Legion, but also 5 more years to settle things.