I’m writing this on my word press site, jimjouppi.com, but it goes to facebook as well. At least it’s supposed to go to my facebook site, Peace Corps Pariah, but I checked the other day, and only the first part of my word press entry went to facebook. Anyway, as already mentioned, I was in the Peace Corps. I was also a medic in the Army, but that was later and pretty much noneventful. As mentioned, in the Peace Corps, I was stationed in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, and my book is about what was going on there, mostly during the Vietnam War.
My recollections, admittedly, are quite a bit different than those of RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) author Peter Navarro, who, in his best-selling book In Trump Time: A Journal of America’s Plague Year, reminisced about having commandeered a bulldozer from the Nakhon Phanom Air Base to build a fishpond. As a reference footnote, he used an article by former Airman Phil Carroll, “Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in the Vietnam War,” which has nothing about Peter Navarro or his fish pond.
I don’t know if Peter was lying, but I’m sure there’s been a lot of misinformation about the Peace Corps over the years, some by volunteers themselves. While e Navarro’s account about his Peace Corps fishpond and other Peace Corps exploits may have been the most braggadocios piece I’ve read, I don’t think social scientist and best-selling author Charles Murray were doing the Peace Corps any favors by describing it as he did when speaking to college students at the American Enterprise Institute. (See Charles Murray: How to Spend Your Twenties on YouTube.) Murray wasn’t actually stationed in Nakhon Phanom as a volunteer, but he went there doing research after his Peace Corps tour was over.
Still, according to Peace Corps historian Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, it was volunteers like me, volunteers who were using the Peace Corps to avoid the draft, that “tarnished the image of the agency and sometimes embarrassed those who had joined for better reasons.” (from pp. 206,207 of All You Need is Love: Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960s), and Stanley Meisler, author of When the World Calls, the Inside Story of the Peace Corps and It’s First Fifty Years, even called out my name when mentioning that some volunteers succumbed to “the temptation to fraternize with fellow Americans [from] the Air Base. (p.103 of When the World Calls). So I really was, in the eyes of some Peace Corps people at least, a Peace Corps Pariah.