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The physiotherapist p7 : The graduate by thadeusz
This story consists of 7 parts. It is suggested to read them in good order
p7 : end of my studies !
The day following my return to my parents home, I called my university advisor who immediately gave me an appointment. I told him my adventures. He replied saying that he understood my situation and my initial motive in present days France. He had nevertheless a bad news:
"Girard," (for him my name was still ‘Girard’ and not ‘Grohman’ as I was now used to), "your studies last five CONSECUTIVE years," and he insisted on ‘consecutive’. "At least for the last and fifth year which must come immediately after the 4th one. We must consider that you failed your 5th year since you are now absent. The only thing I can get for you is the special authorization to repeat this 5th year next school year. If you fail again, you will have to start it all over … or try something else."
"But I cannot study while I am a legionnaire paratrooper."
"You only have to do your one year stage: ask for the authorization to do it in a military hospital, the Faculty will accept that."
I was very sad when I heard that, but there was nothing I could do. I tried to spend some time with Sophie, but my girlfriend told me that she was not ready to see me again since, as she said:
"Despite your promises, you chose your uniform rather than your girlfriend"
I tried to explain what actually happened, but she refused to listen.
Finally, after 10 days of unhappy leave I chose to go back early to Corsica and to the only place where I was at home now: my regiment.
As soon as I reached the regiment, the Master Sergeant who saw me at the gate told me:
"If you come back here, you abandon what’s left of your leave. Is that what you want, Grohman."
"Yes, Master Sergeant: this is the only place where I feel well now."
The Master Sergeant asked me to explain and I told him about my studies and my girlfriend. He said only one thing: "Go then. I want to see you in full uniform within 10 minutes."
Corporal Ahmed Kacem saw me on my way to my room and told me to report to him as soon as I was "properly dressed" but I told him, respectfully, that I first had to report to the Master Sergeant, which I did in due time. Nothing else happened that day, except an evening inspection of my cupboard by Kacem who explained that he had to be especially watchful since our former friendship was well known by the officers and he was on the verge of being promoted to Master Corporal.
The next day, the Lieutenant commanding my section called me:
"The Master Sergeant told me that you have a problem concerning your studies. Is that true Grohman?"
"What is your problem?"
"Lieutenant, I was in physiotherapy and I had to abandon it because of the Legion."
In fact I did not want to say that I felt that I had been forced to join, it might have given a bad image of me as a Legionnaire. But the Lieutenant insisted and I had to tell him the whole story. The lieutenant concluded simply:
"Dismiss, Grohman and do whatever you have to do."
Three days later I was called by the Colonel who told me:
"Grohman, are you sure that you only need to do one year of stage to complete your studies?"
"Yes, Colonel but that will not be possible."
"That’s not for you to judge, Legionnaire. Would you like to work as a physiotherapist for this regiment as you have done before when you were a reservist?"
"Yes Colonel, but ...", and I stopped speaking: it was not for me to judge. The Colonel went on:
"You can complete your studies in a military hospital in Marseille, but we consider that it will take you a full year, more than a simple school year. So the legion wants you to do something to compensate for your absence. Are you ready for that, Legionnaire Grohman?"
I suddenly felt very happy and without thinking more I simply said: "Yes Colonel."
"In that case, sign this additional 4 years contract."
Without any hesitation I signed without reading it a document prepared by the Colonel who said:
"That’s good. A permanent physiotherapist will be very useful for this regiment. Tomorrow morning you will leave Corsica and go to the Military Hospital in Marseille. There you will work during one full year as mentioned in your new contract. You will then come back here to serve during several years. This special stage is accepted by your civilian school and your adviser will now be the Colonel commanding this Hospital."
I went to Marseille, and I worked there under the leadership of a Captain, an MD, who had specialized in physiotherapy. Since I had to be available for all emergencies, I only had very rare and very short leaves and nearly no free time. At the end of the year I got my diploma of licensed Physiotherapist. I was then told that I had a 4 weeks leave which I spent with my parents. After that, I went back to what was really for me "my regiment" and my home now.
During that year, my adviser, in agreement with the Colonel of my actual regiment, made it possible to get my real name back. I was now, again and for the rest of my contracts, André Girard, a French citizen. When I was back in my regiment, I learned that Wouter chose to stick to his Legion name and that my ex-friend Kacem could not do the same since he had a police record in France.
Wouter was still Legionnaire First Class and so were the other legionnaires who had started para training with me. Sadly enough, I had been forgotten in this promotion. In fact, I did not care: the difference between First Class and simple Legionnaire is so tiny that it does not merit to be mentioned. Corporal Kacem, my ex friend, was now Master Corporal and he kept behaving with me as a tyrant, but I did not really mind: there were others higher ranking men in the regiment. I concentrated on my work as physiotherapist, sometimes inside the barracks, sometimes accompanying legionnaires during several missions and helping them to relax.
One day, I passed in front of Kacem without seeing him: I was very busy with a difficult case. I did the worst I could do, not knowingly, I forgot to salute the new Master Corporal. But Kacem was very proud of his new title, "Master Corporal", so he decided that I had to be very severely punished "for that behaviour unbecoming to a Legionnaire." He started by giving me the order to take a humiliating and painful position during 30 minutes, then he told me to run around him, and after that he orderd me to take another stupid position. My Lieutenant just happened to pass by. He looked but said nothing. Master Corporal Kacem told me:
"It is not because you got your real name back that you can show your lack of respect for your superiors. Now, go to your work and fast."
I saluted as I was supposed to do and went to the infirmary where I had to work with several legionnaires.
The next day, I was summoned to a Colonel-report. This was usually bad news. In the Colonel’s office I found, besides the Colonel, my Lieutenant and Master Corporal Kacem. The Colonel started to speak:
"Légionnaire Girard", and he insisted on my name, "is it true that yesterday you omitted to salute the master Corporal here present ?"
"Did you do it purposely ?"
"No, Colonel and there is no excuse for my bad behaviour."
"Is it true that Master Corporal Kacem", and the Colonel insisted on this false name, "punished you brutally ?"
"Colonel, Master Corporal Kacem punished me according to the rules."
"Girard and Kacem, the Lieutenant described what he has seen, and that is unacceptable in MY regiment. There have also been numerous reports by the Lieutenant about excessive punishments given to you, legionnaire Girard, by this Master Corporal. I thus decide that Ahmed Kacem is reduced to Legionnaire First Class and I send him to the brig for 20 days. Kacem, understood ?"
"Yes Colonel" said my former friend with a certain rage in his voice.
"Dismiss and go immediately to the brig."
Kacem and I made a perfect about turn and started to leave this office when the Colonel’s voice boomed again.
"Not you Girard."
I looked at my big chief who added:
"You are promoted as of today to Legionnaire First Class. Since you have a Master in physiotherapy, you can be sent by the Legion to the officer school in order to become an officer. Despite the fact that you are French, I send you as foreign legionnaire. This implies that you will keep serving this regiment, or another chosen by the Legion and that your contracts remain valid, but you will serve as officer and be subject to Legion disciplinary code."
I did what I was told to do. I became Lieutenant after one year and came back to my regiment. I now live in my own small house in the little town. I keep helping legionnaires every morning but I have private patients in Calvi every evening. From time to time, I go far from the regiment to help legionnaires who are on a mission.
One day, Sophie invited me to her marriage with Michael, my former friend. She told me: "You can come in uniform if you want." I did not go.
Ali Khider-Ahmed Kacem finished his contract as Legionnaire First Class and was never more promoted. He did not renew his contract and I do not know what happened to him. Wouter got his real name back and is now a Sergeant in the same regiment. He asks often for my help … mostly to have an occasion to chat with me during what he calls "office hours". We also drink beer together, from time to time. We are still good friends.
I keep renewing my contracts with the Legion and I remain under foreigner discipline, but I have never more jumped sprang from a plane with a parachute.