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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