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June 29, 2017

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Taiwanese mercenary battles in eight years of foreign wars for France

The China Post news staff--Standing just below 5 foot 6, Xie Bing-xi (謝秉希) from Jiufen, is far from what most would imagine a fierce combat soldier should be. But he has a shocking story of fighting wars for eight years that were never his to fight.

Growing up, Xie had always dreamed of fighting for the army. Fresh out of college, Xie met a former Swedish military officer who encouraged him to pursue his dreams of becoming a soldier.

In 2003, Xie cut off all means of retreat, sold everything he had in Taiwan, packed his bags and flew to France with gritty determination to register for the French Foreign Legion.

The French Foreign Legion, a military service wing of the French army exclusively for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French military, has extremely demanding physical requirements." Excellent marks by national standards can only scrape by a passing score in the French military," said Xie.

After teeth-clenched training and utilizing every scrap of willpower, Xie was accepted into the force, specializing in field artillery, amphibious warfare and medicine. He finally became a medic corporal in the combat engineering division, leading his squad into war zones and battles.

In eight years as a mercenary, Xie has been deployed to war-torn countries all over the world, such as Kosovo, Somalia and even Afghanistan, where he guarded borders, fought terrorists, waged jungle warfare and more.

Xie remembers many grueling experiences where life and death meet in the blink of an eye, one of which was when a fellow Congolese soldier was shot in the back of the head, collapsing into the military vehicle in a pool of blood. Many of his soldiers would pass onto him their dying wills to send home whenever his unit left for a mission. "I did not write a will," said Xie; he just wished to be cremated and have his ashes returned to his hometown, Jiufen, to be taken into the skies by the wind.

When Xie was not in combat, his sole form of entertainment during his few holidays was patronizing the stationed American military pubs. On several occasions, Xie would haul his accumulated beer quota (the French army distributes two cans of beer per day to each soldier) to the pubs, encountering great acquaintances, and exchanging languages and stories. "Beer's the boss. As long as you have beer, everyone — especially the American soldiers — treat you like a brother," said Xie.

After eight excruciating years of service in the French Foreign Legion, Xie saved enough from his annual salary of NT$1.5 million and bought a modest Parisian flat, which he rents out for a monthly income. Upon coming back to Taiwan, immigration officers realized he had not yet completed mandatory military service and Xie was sent off to serve in the Taiwanese military in a secretarial position.

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