Bob Arias was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia from 1964 to 1966. After his tour he worked for the Peace Corps for a number of years, and with various administrations. In 2001 — his last assignment, he moved on a report on Safety and Security for the Peace Corps. Then in 2003 he returned to Oregon to become the Executive Director of the CASA program. However, by 2009 he was back with the agency, first serving in Panama and Paraguay as a Crisis Corps/Peace Corps Response Volunteer, and then in Colombia where his Peace Corps service began nearly fifty years ago.
After The New York Times article by Simon Romero about Gordon Radley’s trip to the site of where his older brother had perished in Colombia was published on August 24, 2011, and reprinted on this blog, Bob dropped me a note and some additional photographs of this journey and his connection with it, and Radley’s farewell at the spot where his brother Larry and David Crozier had died, the first PCVs to lose their lives while serving in the Peace Corps.
I was the only Peace Corps Volunteer to be invited by United States Ambassador P. Michael McKinley to attend this ceremony. I had just returned to Colombia as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, and I had only been in country a week when I was asked to represent the Peace Corps. It was for me a very emotional trip.
We flew two Black Hawks and were escorted by military helicopters across the isolated jungle mountain range in the Choco region of Colombia to the site of the crash.
We are accompanied by the current Peace Corps Country Director, George Baldino, and several members of the press. We flew over the same area where the failed DC-3 had flown on Easter Sunday morning in 1962. The crash site was no more than a postage size piece of land, cleared by the military. Because they were fearful the FARC might attack, the ceremony itself was kept brief for our safety.
Gordon took a few moments to be alone with his fallen brother . . . a moving moment for all of us. And then he began to play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy on his harmonica in tribute to and memory of Larry. It was, I think, a fitting way to bring closure to the memory of these PCVs, and of all the PCVs who have died in service over the last fifty years of the Peace Corps. I wish Sarge had been there to share it with all of us.
- Gordon Radley meets with travel party
- Travel party and military escort
- The 1962 crash site