The story describes how they were "recruited" and served in the war. They weren't really recruited at all of course, more kidnapped and made to fight for Belgium (does that sound familiar?).
The story raises the question of how you support veterans in countries like Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and of course Afghanistan. Figuring out what an adequate pension looks like has been a challenge and a source of tension in these countries. In many cases, ex-combatants found to lack the qualifications to integrate new forces have refused to demobilize until they were assured sufficient pensions to support themselves and their families.
Still, I was surprised that these veterans were apparently paid pensions until the fall of Mobutu:
The men returned to eastern Congo after the war. Tami [one of the veterans] became a nurse; Ngumbi became a farmer. During the rule of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who wrecked the economy but also instilled a sense of national and African pride, the men said they received a decent pension.
When Mobutu was overthrown in a coup, though, the pensions stopped. These days, the veterans get by on food and help from relatives.
War has swept a few times through Walikale, with a succession of rebel groups and recently the Congolese army -- now known as one of the worst-trained armies on the planet -- looting the veterans' camp. The soldiers stole the men's boots, their uniforms, their Congolese flag, and most of their medals.
And the story ends with the title quote.