I will not forget the feeling when I got off the plane in Utah on July 15, 1968. As someone from the East, I hadn’t known the dry heat of the desert West. In those olden days you didn’t walk to a terminal through an air conditioned jetway. Instead I stepped down the stairs to the tarmac with the feeling of tumbling into a clothes dryer. I was entering much more heat than that, on my way to Peace Corps training in the midst of the Vietnam War, destination Libya as a teacher of English.

We were over one hundred young men, all recent college graduates, thrown together at a very slightly refurbished, abandoned navy base in Clearfield, Utah. It was not many days into training before we discovered we were part of the soft side of government contracting. For it was the Thiokol Corporation that had secured the contract to train us in conjunction with Utah State University.

So we wondered why, on the one hand, a defense contractor - part of the Vietnam war machine - would, on the other hand, seek to train us to become representatives of peace. Some of our number were resolute in their opposition to the iron fist/soft hand, so they left or were “deselected”.

I found out later that Thiokol used its good ties to the military in the 1960s to win contracts for what they termed “humanitarian projects”. At the time, I was uneasy with the arrangement, but my opposition to the war drew me to the Peace Corps as a temporary alternative, so I stayed. The training was in fact quite good, our impact in North Africa perhaps appreciable, the impact of the Peace Corps experience on most of us perhaps much more appreciable. Why can’t I just forget about Thiokol?