As a returned Peace Corps volunteer, I found Colman McCarthy's report {op-ed, Jan. 19} that Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell has seen fit to politicize the Peace Corps deeply disturbing. Americans who volunteer two or more years of their lives to serve less fortunate peoples of the world deserve a leader whose primary interest is the great service volunteers provide.

A Peace Corps tour is a demanding experience, though one that brings lifelong rewards. I served in Micronesia (1978-79), 8,000 miles from my family and friends, and did not visit home until my tour was complete. That Mr. Coverdell has taken 27 federally funded trips home to Georgia in his 18 months as director is a slap in the face to all volunteers.

Every volunteer knows that the Peace Corps is an arm of U.S. foreign policy. I was called a CIA agent more than once during my tour. Any action by the administration that taints the Peace Corps as political would be very damaging to Peace Corps efforts and could imperil volunteers themselves.

I hope the 30th anniversary of the Peace Corps in March finds the administrative priorities in order.


Colman McCarthy took considerable license in drawing conclusions about me and my work at Peace Corps given the fact that he has neither met with nor talked to me.

Recently there have been several references in The Post regarding the decision to place Peace Corps volunteers in Central Europe {A1, Jan. 2}. A number of those reports have incorrectly stated that we are shifting resources from other parts of the world to support the new programs in Central Europe. This is not the case. Historical increases in our budget by the Bush administration and Congress have accelerated and expanded our programs in every region, in addition to responding to the requests from Central Europe. Nowhere has The Post noted that the Congress itself mandated a Peace Corps presence in Central Europe.

The Post's reports leave a great deal unsaid about one of the most exciting periods in the history of the Peace Corps. We are entering nearly 30 countries, more than during the last two decades combined; and we have reached historical levels of minority participation among the volunteers, country directors and area managers. We have joined hands with more than 2,000 schools in all 50 states to bring the Peace Corps into the classroom, and are working with universities to create a program that will make possible scholarships, advanced degrees and jobs for nearly 15 percent of the returning volunteers each year. People of the Peace Corps -- staff, current and former volunteers -- have gone above and beyond to make all this happen in such a short period of time.

PAUL D. COVERDELL Director United States Peace Corps Washington

Recent news stories about the Peace Corps have reported the debate about whether the number of Peace Corps volunteers in Third World countries should be cut to finance new Peace Corps projects in Eastern Europe. The Post ascribes to current Peace Corps Director Paul Coverdell my call for 10,000 Americans to be sent to the Soviet Union and Europe. I did issue such a call, but that's only a part of what I said.

In testimony last May before the House Government Operations Committee, I suggested that the United States "send 10,000 Peace Corps volunteers to Central Europe and the the Soviet Union in the 1990s." I also said: "Such an offer should not diminish in any way what the Peace Corps does, and should do, in Africa, in Latin America and in the poorest nations of Asia." In other words, I think the Peace Corps should be in Central Europe and Russia, but not at the expense of Third World countries.

SARGENT SHRIVER Washington The writer was the first director of the Peace Corps.