Reporters on the Job
• Proud Veterans: When correspondent Claire Soares began reporting for her story on the raising of pensions for the African veterans of World War II and the Vietnam War, she quickly found it wasn't difficult to find Senegalese who has fought for the French in those far-off wars.
"I asked my cleaner, and her father fought in France," Claire says. "She told me that he would sit her down on his knee and tell her about the places he traveled fighting with Allied Forces."
About 1 million solders from French colonies fought in the 20th century wars. While it's not uncommon to run across the descendants of those war veterans, the old soldiers are becoming much more scarce. There are only about 7,000 still living in Senegal who will soon be taking advantage of the pension boost from the French government.
But despite the fact that they haven't received the same benefits as their French counterparts, those African veterans still remain proud of their service in the French Army. "The thing that really struck me was the dignity and the pride that these veterans have," Claire says.
For many Africans at that time, it was the only chance to see the world. For veteran Issa Cisse, the first time he saw snow was when he fought the Germans in the Alps during World War II. Even though he's grateful for that experience, there is still very much a sense of resentment toward the French government. "The veterans feel like they gave France back its liberty, but complain that their children can't even travel there," Claire says.
– Mike Farrell
Middle East editor