BOISE, Idaho — Legendary tough guy Joe Munch was reflecting on the forces that have shaped his life when he did something his critics would say was wildly out of character.
The former child Nazi, French Legionnaire, cop and chief of security at Idaho's penitentiary — dry-eyed through the carnage of war and the harshness of prison life — paused and wiped away a tear.
"You ask me which is the real Joe Munch," he said. "It's all of them. I've been the person who fit the situation."
On a table beside the lounge chair where he now spends much of his time was a box of memorabilia from his years in the French Foreign Legion. Next to that, his Hitler Youth knife — its Blut und Ehre (Blood and Honor) inscription still eerily sinister.
Munch was resting after a blood transfusion for the esophageal cancer that could end his life at any time. Even dressed in slippers, baggy pants and an Ada County Sheriff's Employees Association T-shirt, he evokes images of the hard-boiled soldier and cop he once was - commanding presence, neatly trimmed gray hair swept straight back, gray-blue eyes that could cut steel.
At 77, Munch still carries his draft card. On his front lawn, American and Idaho flags ripple from a tall pole. More than flags, they're testimonials to the onetime Nazi's feelings for a country he once saw as an enemy but for most of his life has been fiercely proud to call home.
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