A Peace Corps Memoir

Article Published: Jun. 3, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
A Peace Corps Memoir

A Boone man who was inspired by President John F. Kennedy's speech nearly 50 years ago has written a book about it and will also be reliving memories of it this fall.

Terry Sack heard Kennedy speak at the University of Michigan when Kennedy was talking about service and the newly created Peace Corps. Sack's autobiography chronicles his role as one of the world's first Peace Corps volunteers and also captures the flavor of the era and the ideals behind the service work.

"Certainly, hearing JFK's speech inspired me to join," Sack said. "I was also reading a book called 'The Ugly American' that talked about how Americans were perceived around the world."

"A Peace Corps Memoir: Answering JFK's Call" is an introspective tale but also relates Sack's adventures in Bolivia, where he served and formed a deep bond with the country. He reminisces about the organization's early years, surviving a very demanding training program, and then finding his niche in a small town in the Amazon basin of Bolivia in the early 1960s.

Sacks delivers a chronological account of his experiences in the country, weaving in culture, history, politics, personal accounts and relationships. A retired Professor Emeritus of Counselor Education at Appalachian State university, he wrote the memoir for several reasons.

"I was retired, and we'd had a reunion of a number of members of my Peace Corps group," Sack said, and he also wondered about family legacy after his first grandchild was born. "You know, they probably won't know Grandpa did these things unless I write them down."

From swimming with piranhas to finding romance, Sack also wanted to share what the world was like in that era, when Peace Corps volunteers were largely removed from daily news and information.

"The world is also a different place now than it was 50 years ago,'" Sack said. "In those days, we waited weeks to get a letter and today people have cell phones and the world is much more interconnected. That's another reason for writing the book, because that time and that world is long gone."

Sack was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia from 1963 to 1965 and later served as a liaison officer in the Office of Volunteer Support for the Peace Corps in Washington, DC. He has since returned to Bolivia 18 times.

The book has also opened up opportunities to relive Kennedy's historic speech, as the University of Michigan is inviting him to participate in some events this fall on the anniversary of Kennedy's speech.

"I was one of only three or four people who was there that night who had become a Peace Corps volunteer, so I'm sort of a footnote to history," Sack said.

He also encourages young people to consider becoming a Peace Corp volunteer: "it's good for broadening their perspective, learning more about the world, taking on a more challenging path and a chance to grow in many different ways."

Sack, who lives in Boone with his wife, is currently working on his first novel.

"A Peace Corps Memoir: Answering JFK's Call" is available at the Watauga County Public Library, ASU Bookstore, Black Bear Books and Amazon.com.

In other book news, "Cataloochee" author Wayne Caldwell will be signing books at Black bear Books in Boone on May 29 at 2 p.m. Caldwell is an ASU alumnus and his novel is set in the 1920's Smoky Mountains.

Canterbury Publishing has released Bart Bare's first novel "Girl," featuring 14-year-old Loren Creek, who flees a foster home and evades the legal system in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Creek settles in and gains attention as kicker on the football team, but she also is found by her foster care guardian, who is determined to place her in a home he thinks best.

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