2007.10.12: October 12, 2007: Headlines: COS - Vanuatu: Obituaries: Fallen: Peace Corps Press Release: Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Volunteer John Roberts

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Vanuatu: Peace Corps Vanuatu : Peace Corps Vanuatu: Newest Stories: 2007.10.12: October 12, 2007: Headlines: COS - Vanuatu: Obituaries: Fallen: Peace Corps Press Release: Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Volunteer John Roberts

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Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Volunteer John Roberts

Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Volunteer John Roberts

The Peace Corps is mourning the loss of John D. Roberts, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu. Roberts died as the result of an accident while working at his site on October 11. A student was cutting branches from a tree at the school where Roberts and other students were cleaning the garden, and when one of the branches fell, it struck Roberts and another member of the community. Tragically, both were killed. "John was an exemplary Volunteer who had a true heart for service," said Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter. "John's death is a tremendous loss for his family, the Peace Corps, and the People of Vanuatu—in particular those in the community where he served.

Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Volunteer John Roberts

Peace Corps Mourns the Loss of Volunteer John Roberts

Director Tschetter Cites Roberts as an Exemplary Peace Corps Volunteer

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 11, 2007 - The Peace Corps is mourning the loss of John D. Roberts, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Vanuatu. Roberts died as the result of an accident while working at his site on October 11.

A student was cutting branches from a tree at the school where Roberts and other students were cleaning the garden, and when one of the branches fell, it struck Roberts and another member of the community. Tragically, both were killed.

"John was an exemplary Volunteer who had a true heart for service," said Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter. "John's death is a tremendous loss for his family, the Peace Corps, and the People of Vanuatu—in particular those in the community where he served.

John served as a Construction and Skilled Trades Education Volunteer in Vanuatu with the Vetumit Rural Training Center, located in a remote village called South River, on the island of Erromango.

John was 24 years old and from Omaha, Nebraska. He was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer on December 8, 2005, and was approximately one month from completion of his service in Vanuatu. John is survived by his parents, Douglas and Rose Roberts, of Omaha, Nebraska.

In his aspiration statement when he joined the Peace Corps, he said: "Why I have volunteered is a question that I do not fully know the answer to. Coming from a stable farming family I was always taught to help my neighbors but I also feel an internal pull to help lend a hand. Somewhere back in my short life…I made a choice to serve and have been doing so ever since. Instead of a single moment defining my reasons to serve, a whole life time of learning is driving me to volunteer for the Peace Corps."

As a Peace Corps Volunteer, John is credited for helping strengthen South River's transportation, income generation, and communication capabilities. However, John's lasting accomplishments can also be measured by the warmth of human relationships. As one community representative said, "John helped us develop our rural training center and community, but what we will really remember is that he lived with us, ate with us, played with us, grieved with us and rejoiced with us…he was our son."

Since 1961, more than 190,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. In the small island nation of Vanuatu, there are currently 101 Volunteers working primarily to increase access to quality education, particularly in rural areas. Volunteers also focus projects on income generation through business development, food security, sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation and youth development. Since the program's inception in 1990, over 400 Volunteers have served in Vanuatu.

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, 2002 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,

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Headlines: October, 2007; Peace Corps Vanuatu; Directory of Vanuatu RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Vanuatu RPCVs; Obituaries; Fallen

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