Dr. Eleanor Saboski, Kennebunkport
From 1963 to 1965 I was in Bangladesh serving in the Peace Corps. We were all unaware about what was happening to the east of us. Eventually all of us were affected by the conflict, and this below is “my story”:
WAR AND PEACE CORPS
In 1963, heeding John F Kennedy’s call “Ask not.....”, I joined a Peace Corps group of teachers going to Bangladesh ( at that time East Pakistan) where we were part of a contingency including health workers and young engineers who were scattered around that small, beautiful, tropical country which was in some serious growth throws. I was stationed in a northern city, Mymensingh , along with other teachers and engineers. We would gather every so often to sooth our home sickness for America and share cans of Spam and chocolate frosting that came in care packages from home. Although Bengali food was delicious, a taste of home was needed at holidays.
At some of the gatherings we would have singing contests, and an engineer, Michael, and I would do a duet of “There’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza…”. It became our thing. Michael was one year ahead of me and so his two year stay soon came to an end and he was shipped home.
One year later my stay was up and taking advantage of travel opportunities I decided to travel by plane, train and boat through the countries of south east Asia on my way home. Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore were first stops. In Malaysia, I met a volunteer serving with the Canadian equivalent of Peace Corps. He was staying at my hostel in Kuala Lumpur. He had just come from Vietnam and I wanted that to be my next stop. His hesitation at my inquiries was suspicious. It was 1965 and in Bangladesh we were out of touch with tensions in Vietnam. He strongly discouraged me from trying to travel there, and by the time I finished my trips through the western Pacific, I learned about the lack of peace in Vietnam.
When I reached the west coast of America and met with returned PC volunteers there, they broke the news that Michael had been drafted as a helicopter pilot and was shot down and killed. The brutal irony of that didn’t go amiss. He volunteered for the Peace Corps but was drafted into war.
How many young men with their futures ahead of them would no longer sing duets with friends; no longer try to build peace in the world; no longer would grow old with their beloveds? Michael’s name we found on the memorial in Washington. Was It silly of me to sing my part of our duet to that cold stone wall? It is my memorial to him and to all the young lives gone for reasons which even history and reflection can’t completely explain.