Joel Struthers at the start of his military journey. Submitted photo

Langley author recounts service in the French Foreign Legion

Langley's Joel Struthers aims to educate the public on what service looks like in the Legion.

Joining the military was something Langley’s Joel Struthers always had in mind, but becoming an author was less expected.

Years ago, after graduating from Langley Secondary School, Struthers joined the Canadian Reserves, then went on to join the French Foreign Legion and became part of the legion’s Group Commando Parachutistes (GCP), where he served for six years.

And now, the 47-year-old Murrayville resident has published a book called Appel: A Canadian in the French Foreign Legion through the Wilfred Laurier University Press that outlines his time overseas as a soldier in the 1990s.

“I’m not a writer, I’m just a soldier, and I had the story,” Struthers said.

Struthers was inspired to write the book after his grandfather – who also served in the military – advised Struthers to save his memories after his return to Canada.

“I took his advice thankfully, and my experiences were typed to Word document and left untouched for over a decade. My post-legion experiences, age, and perspective led to Appel,” Struthers explained.

According to Struthers, there are many misconceptions about the French Foreign Legion, and the purpose of the book is to tell the “truth” and give a “positive account,” of his service.

He explained the legion was initially designed to allow foreigners, and people with prison sentences to fight for France overseas.

“Now it’s an integral part of the French military. They take one in 15 applicants so they can pick and choose,” Struthers added.

“A lot of people think the less-desirables or the convicts or whatever go over there – that’s the kind of Hollywood narrative, but it’s untrue. I went over there to soldier and that’s what I got to see. I was a young man and I got to see the world for what it was.”

After processing his thoughts for years after returning to Canada, working on rough drafts, and getting facts checked by friends from the regiment and the GCP, Struthers’ book officially hit store shelves in early March.

“The research included reviewing books I had from my time in the legion, books acquired for the purpose, and online websites to ensure legion, military, historical, and family facts were accurate,” Struthers elaborated.

During the creative process, Struthers said the majority of work was done at home, with a glass of French red wine, and good music.

Since returning to Canada in the early 2000s, Struthers works as a commercial helicopter pilot, and is raising a family.

“We used to use helicopters [in the legion] all the time for jumping so I got the itch to fly,” he added.

In 2017, Struthers took his two children to the Corsica region of France to show them where he spent his young adulthood.

“When people would find out I was in the legion, they’d make statements where I would just shake my head. You can’t explain it in a short conversation,” Struthers added.

Appel is available to purchase at Chapters Indigo stores, and online at www.amazon.ca

Struthers will be hosting a book signing on Saturday, March 30 from 12 to 4 p.m. at Chapters Indigo.

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