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Keeping Missions Separate

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Colman McCarthy may hope to "shake the Pentagon's money tree" ["Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps," op-ed, Aug. 21], but that isn't all that will be shaken if service members are allowed to count experience with the Peace Corps as active duty.

The image of the United States as Big Brother is already difficult for Peace Corps volunteers to overcome without adding the specter of military design and influence.

Veterans who join the Peace Corps now do so with a mission that is clear and distinct from that of their military masters, and that is how it should stay. Veterans who make this choice can display the "discipline and resolve" that Mr. McCarthy so admires without having to parse their commitments or defend their moral compass.

Equally important, the choice for volunteers to devote themselves even temporarily to one of these two divergent branches of service is valuable in itself and ought to remain primary. Even as a veteran who believes that the country would benefit from some kind of universal service, I could not sanction the ambiguity that would persist both for volunteers and those they serve if two such dissimilar missions were mingled.

GEOFFREY CAVANAGH

Washington

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