Soldier rejected from British Army wins top French Foreign Legion award for bravery
By a Daily Mail Reporter on 21st January 2010

A soldier rejected from the British Army on medical grounds has been awarded France's highest honour for his bravery in Afghanistan - after joining the Foreign Legion.

Alex Rowe, 43, has been involved in some of the fiercest fighting against the Taliban in the mountains east of Kabul.
Now he is to receive the Legion d'Honneur, his fifth bravery award, after being involved in a firefight which saw ten of his comrades gunned down.
French Foreign Legion hero Alex Rowe, left, pictured
with his identical twin brother Mark, who is in
the Royal Engineers.
Alex, who has risen to the rank of Adjutant-Chef in the Legion, was ambushed while patrolling with U.S. troops on a route which the Taliban use to traffic insurgents from Pakistan.
He said: 'We got hit from 360 degrees. Two of the Americans we were with were hit by bullets - one in the back plate, two bullets in the helmet and one in the hand. When the first helicopter came in, an RPG exploded a few metres away.'
Alex, whose identical twin brother Mark is a captain in the Royal Engineers, was turned away by military chiefs when he tried to sign up as a teenager because he has a detached retina.
But he was determined to pursue an army career and joined the Legion, which accepts troops from any country, in 1987.
He has since served in the most hostile countries in the world, including the Gulf and the former Yugoslavia, during 23 years of exemplary service.
His mother Jennifer, 64, from Rodborough, Gloucestershire, said: 'I'm incredibly proud of Alex, as I am all my sons.
Jennifer Rowe, pictured holding an MBE she
was awarded last year, will travel to Paris
to watch her son receive his award.
'He was absolutely devastated when he was told he wouldn't be allowed to join the army. It was his life-long ambition and suddenly it was taken away from him.
'He spent two years thinking about joining the French Foreign Legion and joined with my blessing at 20.
'He absolutely loves it and does what he was born to do. He's incredibly brave, so much so that he can probably be considered bordering on stupid. But I love him and am so proud of him.'
Alex grew up in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, and attended the Stroud Army Cadets before applying to join the army with Mark at 18.
Mark was accepted into the force but Alex was left 'devastated' after being told he couldn't join due to the detached retina - which was operated on when he was 13.
The condition also prevented him from joining the police force at 19.
Desperate to fulfil his 'lifelong ambition' of serving with the forces, he begged his parents to allow him to join the French Foreign Legion.
He was told to wait until he was 21 and eventually joined aged 20, when he quickly rose through the ranks to become the best in his unit - despite not initially speaking a word of French.
'I learned French the hard way,' he said.
'I could ask for a campsite and a hotel but it wasn't much use. Every time I spoke English or made a mistake in French, I got a thick ear.'
Despite his history of visual problems, Alex was first made a sniper and was known as a top marksman.
He was previously awarded for bravery while serving in Sarajevo after braving sniper fire to run across a city plaza and shield a mother and daughter from a hail of bullets.
The French Foreign Legion was founded in 1831 and is one of the only regiments in the world that almost anyone can join - no matter where they are from.
New recruits endure a gruelling 30 days of training at the Legion's 'farm' in the Pyrenees, where they memorise the Code of Honour and promise to fight to the death and never surrender.
Alex is one of more than 700 legionnaires, made up of hardened fighters from around the world, who are tackling the Taliban in the mountains east of Kabul.
Among them are a handful of Britons, dozens of Russians, and others from as far afield as Algeria and China.
Alex's rise through the forces has mirrored that of his brother in the British forces, although he can't become an officer as he is not French.
Mum Jennifer said: 'They're both incredibly brave, are into exactly the same hobbies and truly are two parts of one man in every possible way.
'When Mark became a corporal, Alex became one and when he became a sergeant, so too did Alex.'
Alex, who lives in Nimes, France with wife Elizabeth and their children, will receive the award in Paris in July.
They had to think of another way to do it....
  Tristement, la Légion, j'ai une tache mou pour vous! Pardonnez mon Français....
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