While this post may seem a little off-topic for this blog, I felt it important to post today because I believe that service to others is a necessary part of building community and that, by helping others, we can also help ourselves.
Every year on this 11th day of the 11th month we celebrate Veteran’s Day here in the United States. Since my friend Brian returned from his tour of service with the Peace Corps, I also feel compelled to offer my thanks to him and the others like him that have given 27 months of their lives to our country. They have volunteered to be sent to towns and small villages around the world, often without much support, to help foster a sense of community and understanding between disparate peoples and cultures. This can be dangerous at times and while they do not send volunteers into active war zones, these passionate young people often find themselves in unstable areas with far fewer resources than they have had previously- “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”
It has become somewhat of an expected thing around our house, that I get a little defensive about the lack of attention given to Peace Corps volunteers. I am proud of Brian for doing what he did and would hope that he and the others like him would get just a small nod for their sacrifices. There are many ways to serve our country. The current and retired members of the Armed Forces are given their due respect on Veterans Day. Why is it that we don’t have a day to honor those that quietly sacrifice for their nation through the Peace Corps?
Well, in looking into this, I found that there is an annual event called Peace Corps Week that is celebrated internally at the agency. On peacecorps.gov, it is explained that,
“Each year, Peace Corps celebrates Peace Corps Week to commemorate President Kennedy’s establishment of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. During this annual event, the Peace Corps community celebrates all the ways that Peace Corps makes a difference at home and abroad and renews its commitment to service.“
This reaffirmation of service is a way to restate that while the way might be difficult, the need to give of one’s self for the betterment of all is still valuable and necessary. If we, as a national community could find the strength to push for March 1st to be Peace Corps Day everywhere, we would honor not only those men and women that join and serve, but the idea of service to others is a very human and very necessary way to build communities and trust between cultures.
If you want to learn more about what the Peace Corps does, there is a great press release of the then Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet speaking at the National Press Club about the relevance of the Corps into the 21st century. I found this to be really informative and her passion for this program was obvious.
So, while I graciously offer my thanks and respect to the current and past members of the US Armed Forces, I am also grateful for those who “serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries,” and look forward to, one day, being able to join the rest of our nation in thanking them every March 1st.