A 50-Year Journey for a Proper Farewell
By Molly Mattessich on Thursday, August 25th, 2011
Gordan Radley, a member of the National Peace Corps Association Advisory Council, and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi from 1968-70, was profiled in The New York Times for his journey to the place where his brother was killed in a plane crash during his Peace Corps service.
The New York Times excerpt:
MIÁCORA, Colombia — All that remained here, on a drizzle-shrouded ridge in the Chocó jungle, was a rusting cross and some crumpled fuselage. No wonder Gordon Radley feared that the tragedy that took his brother’s life five decades ago was at risk of being lost in the mists of time.
Mr. Radley was just 15 when his parents in Chicago were told, in 1962, that a Colombian DC-3 plane had crashed in Chocó, killing more than 30 people, including two Americans. They were the first Peace Corps volunteers to die in service. One was Mr. Radley’s brother, Larry, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of Illinois.
Of all the commemorations this year for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, an institution still seen to be grasping for its identity somewhere along the spectrum between altruism and a superpower’s quest for soft power, Mr. Radley’s must rank among the most remarkable and quixotic.
We asked Gordon about his journey to the plane site in remote Colombia and he provided this comment:
“…getting there was equally if not more so about confirming the significance of the ideals of Peace Corps service to which David and Larry were the first to give their lives and the significance of those ideals to us as a people. It is about what these two died for and the 50 year quest to get there was my small attempt to consecrate that ground as sacred to America because for the first time in our history we had shed the American blood of citizen American volunteers seeking to bring people beyond our shores lives free from ignorance, poverty and disease. Those are fundamental American ideals and reaching that mountain top confirmed their pre eminence in who we are.”