The Expendables

It’s the dark romance of the French Foreign Legion: haunted men from everywhere, fighting anywhere, dying for causes not their own. Legionnaires need war, certainly, and Afghanistan is winding down. But there’s always the hopeless battle against rogue gold miners in French Guiana …

  1. The word “foreign” in the name French Foreign Legion does not refer to faraway battlegrounds. It refers to the Legion itself, which is a branch of the French Army commanded by French officers but built of volunteers from around the world. Last summer I came upon 20 of them on a grassy knoll on a farm in France near the Pyrenees. They were new recruits sitting back-to-back on two rows of steel chairs. They wore camouflage fatigues and face paint, and held French assault rifles. The chairs were meant to represent the benches in a helicopter flying into action—say, somewhere in Africa in the next few years to come. Two recruits who had been injured while running sat facing forward holding crutches. They were the pilots. Their job was to sit there and endure. The job of the others was to wait for the imaginary touchdown, then disembark from the imaginary helicopter and pretend to secure the imaginary landing zone. Those who charged into the imaginary tail rotor or committed some other blun...

The complete text of “The Expendables” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on www.vanityfair.com.

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