A Peace Corps Volunteer writes to a buddy in Viet Nam


Sept. 26, 1967

Dear Walt,

I figured you would be in that piss hole by now and would eventually write. Don’t sweat the year away from women. I’ve been away from the Canadian girl for a year now, and although at times frustrating, it’s gone quickly. Trouble is I’ve got another one now who is rather keen on getting married. Beautiful, brilliant and rich (irrelevant). Anyway, we’re travelling down to S. Africa together this December and on the way hope to find out if the match is feasible. (ed.  It wasn’t feasible.)

Hope to see Neville, Dupe, and Ralph if we get into the country. (ed. The aforementioned were Oklahoma teammates from South Africa.) If you’re American, it’s tough, and if the South Africans find out you’re ex-Peace Corps, forget it. I’m getting a tourist passport now. We’ll buy a car here in Kenya and drive through Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique, avoiding Rhodesia which is also a difficult place to get into. That means missing Victoria Falls, but that’s all.

As for me and the army, I ain’t gonna fight it. I’m not much of a screaming protester although I very much disagree with the idea. If they want me, they can have me, but I won’t volunteer for it. Two years in there also appeals to me more than five years in the can (ed. prison ) or leaving the country. I think now too I would be a better soldier than two years ago. Especially after the past six months at this survival school.

Was the time spent worth it?  I could not think of anything better to do.   I’d do it again if I had the two years to live over. The experience does ten times more for the volunteer himself than he ever does for his host country. Walt, baby, I still look the same (exception beard), but I’m not the same as when I left. A little less status minded – looking for something to do rather than be. I would say that from the economic standpoint we probably aren’t helping a hell of a lot. To ease pain and suffering maybe a little. To create some understanding a lot. Understanding on our part, of other people. They say that 30 or 40 thousand returned PCV’s might have an effect within the US in 10 or 20 years. That remains to be seen, but it is a good dream.

From pure adventure and excitement, I’ve probably had more than my share, twice on the mountain, twice with animals. For the first time I’ve found myself really frightened and pretty close to being written off, and I’ve learned to react.  I have also gained an ability to think a bit before getting myself into trouble now. In a place like VN I don’t know if it would be useful. I’d like to think it would though.  We’ll see.

My best friend in PC got killed last month. He was on a medical vaccination project during his holidays and was hunting for meat to feed the people working with him. Lions had him instead. He was one of the best. I guess that has sobered me up a bit. No longer a ‘reckless invulnerability’ fixation. But I’m not slowing down, just becoming more aware of my surroundings, more appreciative, more respectful.

Got a letter from T.O. a few weeks ago, our leadoff man at Albuquerque. He’s married, living in Bakersfield, and teaching.

I’m really looking forward to the States now. Not out of homesickness at all; I like it here, but for the first time I think I’ll really be seeing a few things in perspective. Not clouded with the high school or Joe College fantasies. For this I’m grateful to PC. At times it can be boring, frustrating, and damned disheartening. But glad to do it over.

Walt, boy, take care. I mean it. I don’t really understand what it’s like there, what the odds are and all that.  They do seem pretty good for all the people we have there. But it seems hard to justify any part of the whole mess. Especially when it seems to be a word that our government is directed by ‘Capitalism’ rather than a genuine concern for poor, starving, sick people. Maybe you can set me straight. I’ll listen.

Tomorrow I’m leaving with the students for my last trip up Kilimanjaro — I’m leaving the school on November 2 to meet my father in Nairobi and take him around East Africa for a few weeks. Then down to S.A. and maybe some climbing in the Drakensburgs while there.

All the best, George

P.S. Write again before I leave.


George Brose (Tanzania, Kenya 1965–67) (left), Bill Carroll, Oklahoma Track Coach, Walt Mizell (right)


Who were Walt and George?

Walt Mizell and George Brose had been teammates on the cross country and track teams at the University of Oklahoma in the early 1960’s. Walt graduated a year ahead of George and did a master’s degree in history writing a thesis on ‘Why the US Should Be in Viet Nam.’ He was an ROTC officer and was taken into the Army where he served in Viet Nam as an intel officer with the 1st Air Cav Division during the Tet Offensive.

George graduated a year later in 1965 at the time of the first big call up and was doomed to being drafted as a grunt in the Army. He had dropped out of ROTC. The Peace Corps became an option and he jumped at the chance. He was sent to Tanzania and then Kenya. In 1965 he thought the war would be over by 1967.

The Army caught up with him when he terminated from the Peace Corps in 1967.

What happened to Walt and George?

Walt came home from Viet Nam in one piece, went to law school and practiced in Austin, Texas for over thirty years. He once argued a case in front of the US Supreme Court.

George went to Germany with the Army for two years as a translator for a Psychological Warfare Unit.  He married Marie, the Canadian girl mentioned in the letter. They became teachers in Quebec, three years in Zimbabwe, and a year in China 1989 during the Tiananmen Student movement.  Back in the US, Marie became a hospice chaplain and George a mediator. He has since trained mediators in Rwanda, Burundi, the Eastern Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania and worked in the courts of Springfield, Ohio.  They now live on Vancouver Island, British Columbia where George still does child protection mediation.

Why the letter?

Recently Walt was going through old files and found the above letter that George had sent from Kenya to Viet Nam during his last months in the Peace Corps. The letter describes the feelings of a 24-year-old who is near the end of his first real job and overseas experience, his rather naive outlook on life and his hopes for the future. It turned out well for both Walt and George.

They have remained close friends for over sixty years.



Leave a comment
  • This is a fascinating and beautifully written letter. Brought back memories, some better than others, but mostly delightful. Thank you, George!

  • Glad to read the experience I knew you lived. when you were in in Africa, but had no details at all.

    Mike Hewitt

    George came to Winchester, MA, and my wife, Patty Mac watched George run the Marathon.

  • All,
    George has been a good friend for 62+ years. I remember meeting him for the first time at Jeff House in Norman and thinking that he might move me down a notch on the OU cross country team. And he did just that, but we became good friends anyway. We were sitting in the stands watching a track meet in Norman many years ago, long after his Africa and my Viet Nam tours, and I suggested he start a blog to help keep our old track team buddies in touch with each other. He actually did that, and I’m pretty sure that’s what eventually led to the track blog he publishes today. It has been my honor and pleasure to call him a friend all these years as we now are well into the latter phases of our lives.
    The plumber’s son from Dayton, Ohio, has done pretty well. . .
    Walt Mizell
    Austin, Texas
    July 5, 2024

  • Have been lucky to know George and Marie for over 20 years. Miss all fun dissecting of mediation cases in Springfield, Ohiio. Great fun in trainings. Always enjoy George “stories.”

  • Not only are old friends the best friends, but reliving those friendships over time and experience makes them all the more special. George, as a Peace Corps Volunteer as well as a U.S. Army draftee, I assume that you have often been thanked for your service but what percentage of those “thanks” were for your service in the Peace Corps? I, for one, would like to thank you now for representing all of us in Africa in the 1960s.

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