Commemorating the Battle of Bazeilles with the French

Forward Operating Base Morales-Frazier, Afghanistan -  The French Marines held a ceremony to remember the Battle of Bazeilles. As a Marine, I was honored they invited me to attend. That’s me (the black guy) in the center.

Forward Operating Base Morales-Frazier, Afghanistan –
The French Marines held a ceremony to remember the Battle of Bazeilles. As a Marine, I was honored they invited me to attend. That’s me (the black guy) in the center.

We suited up yesterday and left Bagram for FOB Morales-Frazier. It’s a forward operating base that keeps us closer to the action (minus all the conveniences of Bagram Air Field.) It’s a Coalition base (meaning all international military forces involved in the war can use it,) but it’s primarily controlled by the French. It’s got good pizza, and the view of the mountains are nice. Other than those niceties, it’s just tents and dirt.

A few months ago, I would’ve complained about how us Air Force folks are not used to such conditions. But not anymore. We’re all acclimatized now. Although our team is a mix of Army and Air Force, we all share the suck equally, and our personal standards have been lowered to expect nothing other than a safe day as the only requirement. Everything else is gravy.

No hot meal today?
Whatever.

Internet connection down again?
Okay.

No hot water in the showers?
I didn’t feel like showering anyway.

WHAT TO YOU MEAN WE HAVE TO STAY OUT HERE AN EXTRA DAY!?!?!?

Anyway …

Today was really cool. The French Marine Corps held a ceremony to remember the Battle of Bazeilles. (See the pics on the Afghanistan Pics page.) In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian war, French forces died while fighting coalition troops. The legend has it that the French, although clearly outnumbered and outgunned, fought bravely until the last man. (Hey, I’ve heard the rumors about the French military … But since I wasn’t there in 1870 to verify the validity of this statement, I won’t comment!)

Having never seen a French military ceremony before, me and two other officers from my team decided to watch it from a distance. We were standing on the sidelines of the ceremony as the French troops were gathering in formation, when an older French Marine motioned to us and pointed to a place on the ground.

Thinking we were standing in someone else’s spot, we immediately followed his gesture, somewhat embarrassed that we were just caught inviting ourselves to their private ceremony. We stood where he motioned for us to stand, assuming it would be safe for us to watch their ceremony at that spot.

Then, French Marines started marching in formation toward our direction. They halted and to my surprise, they were formed right next to us! Music started playing … THE FRENCH PUT US IN THEIR FORMATION!

So, there I was, standing in a French formation, as a French Commander spoke (in French) about a French battle (that I had never heard of.) After the speech, he did a troop inspection, walking around each of the platoons. The officers of each platoon saluted as the commander walked by. HE WAS MAKING HIS WAY AROUND TO US! I was unsure of the protocol, but assuming that it’s proper to salute an inspecting officer, I saluted as he walked in front of me. You would have never known that I had just joined the formation less than 5 minutes before it started.

Then, the entire formation sang the French National Anthem in unison. Unable to sing along, we just kept our hands up, saluting (and hoping no one would notice.) I didn’t know the words, but hearing the men sing gave me the same feeling I had when, as a young Marine, we sang the “Marines Hymn” together. It was a nice ceremony, and, as a Marine, I was honored they invited us to attend.

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