June 23, 2002 - Peace Corps Online: For the Peace Corps Fallen

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Reunions: Fortieth Plus One: June 23, 2002 - Peace Corps Online: For the Peace Corps Fallen

By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, July 04, 2002 - 7:00 pm: Edit Post

For the Peace Corps Fallen

Read and comment on this article written by Swaziland RPCV Jack Conrad on the Memorial Service for the 254 Peace Corps Volunteers who have died in service held at Arlington Cemetery on June 23 at:

For the Peace Corps Fallen*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

For the Peace Corps Fallen

This past Sunday was sunny and steamy hot in Washington, D.C. In the morning, hundreds of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers assembled beside the Lincoln Memorial. There they distributed among themselves flags from each of the countries in which the Peace Corps has served - 135 in all. They then marched, led by the flag bearers, in reverent tribute across the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery. At the cemetery they mounted the large hill before them, veering to the right in order to pay their respects to the agency's founder, at the grave of President John F. Kennedy. Then they continued on to the top of the hill and the amphitheater beside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That's where the remembrance ceremony began.

A quartet of Washington, D.C. police officers, called "Prophecy," started the commemoration with gospel music. Then Pat Reilly, President of the National Peace Corps Association Board, stood at the podium, recalling her first encounter with the Peace Corps ("You can't send me to Sierra Leone. I don't speak Spanish! Besides, I wanted to go to Africa!"). Following the assembled volunteers' singing of America the Beautiful, a Rabbi and an Imam shared their prayers with the audience, prayers for the work of the Peace Corps, prayers for Peace. Pat Reilly returned to the stage to share a poem dedicated to those volunteers who gave their lives during their service. Presented below, it packed a punch. Then an unscheduled guest took the stage, newly confirmed Peace Corps Director, Gaddy Vasquez. He shared his brief remarks about the organization, its heightened importance, and again, reverence for those who never returned from their assignments - 254 individuals in all. He disclosed that he thinks about them every day---upon entering and leaving the Peace Corps Office---as there is a large panel with the names of the departed just beside the entrance ...

Next Congressman Christopher Shays from Connecticut (RPCV, Fiji) took the stage, striking just the right note when he asserted that "We walked their paths, rode their buses, bathed in their pools and spoke their languages ... We came home different and with a greater appreciation of our country."

A few other speakers followed, Michelle Forman, the national teacher of the year (RPCV, Nepal), Harris Wofford, instrumental in the founding of the Peace Corps, later a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, and more recently a Clinton Administration task force member, and lastly the coordinator of the conference, Cori Welbourn Bassett (RPCV, Sri Lanka).

The ceremony ended with a final procession of the flags ...

I was honored to have the chance to depart the amphitheater carrying the flag of Swaziland. As I did, I thought about the five Swaziland PCVs who never returned from their service alive.

(1) Frederick A. Schwartz (1970)

(2) Janis Hyatt (1981)

(3) Brenda Crawford (1988)

(4) Juanita Quiton (1988)

(5) Laura Stedman (1996)

I *believe* I met Brenda and Juanita before I left Swaziland in 1987. They would have been among the latest trainees. I heard later, when I was teaching in West Africa in '88, that they had died in an auto accident, while traveling from Johannesburg to Zimbabwe, somewhere on the road between the two.

It would be interesting to hear about the personalities of these five volunteers and more about the circumstances behind their deaths. Did any of you know them?

For the Peace Corps Fallen

We who left you
Before our time
May return if you reach back

And carry a world
With us
Within you.

Let our monument
Be the mark you make
In the life you lead of peace and purpose.

Do, so that we may do
Act, so that we may act
Live, so that we may live

Again, through you.

---by Donald Maclean

Salani kahle, Bonkhosi,

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

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Why the Peace Corps needs a Fourth GoalThe Peace Corps 40th plus one
The Case for Peace Corps IndependenceThe Controversy over Lariam
The Peace Corps and Homeland SecurityDirector Vasquez meets with RPCVs
RPCV Congressmen support Peace Corps' autonomyPeace Corps Expansion:  The Numbers Game?
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RPCV Character on new Fox SitcomBush and JFK

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; RPCVs - 40th plus one; COS - Swaziland



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