Post-Inaugural Parade reflections continue to land in our in-boxes. John Riggan is a member of the National Peace Corps Association, NPCA Advisory Council member and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Kenya and then as Country Director in Chad. On January 20th, John marched with the NPCA in the parade. Below is a letter written to the NPCA member group Friends of Chad recounting his experience.
Dear Friends of Chad
As a member of the NPCA Advisory Council, I was invited to join 200 former Peace Corps volunteers to march in the Inaugural Parade. We carried the flags of the 139 countries in which PC has served and I proudly carried the Chadian flag. It was a great experience which combined standing around in the cold for hours and then an adrenaline rush of a 35 minute march up Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House reviewing stand with President Obama and party energetically waving at us and we waving back maniacally.
The pleasure was more than doubled because my daughter Jennifer, a 3 month old when we arrived in Chad (to attempt to fill the large shoes of Charlie Steedman) and later a PCV in Eritrea 1, marched two rows behind me. Jen entered and won a lottery that NPCA set up to pick roughly 150 former PCV’s to march (over 1000 applied). We were the only representatives of Eritrea and Chad and the only parent/child so we marched with extra pride. Jen declared it one of the best days of her life!
As you all know the spirit of the Inauguration event was amazing. The Peace Corps marchers with our colorful flags was greeted all along the route with shouts and applause. Immigrants from countries would shout out their native country’s name when they spotted their flag. My daughter swears that she heard “Chad” and she has better hearing than I do. Even law enforcement and security people were calling out, “good job!” and such.
The day started at 7 a.m. at the Pentagon for security screenings and ended at 7:30 p.m., but no complaints from Jen or me. The marchers were great, young or old (Harris Wofford at 82 led us and since he didn’t complain of the cold, neither did I), we danced and shouted and cheered throughout the day while hearing stories connecting to many old friends such as Baudouin de Marcken from his Zaire and Baltics Country Directorships, Tom Corcoran as CD in Benin (or was it Dahomey then?), and many more from my Kenya and Ethiopia PC experiences. The special place that PC holds in the hearts of Americans was confirmed as part of “best selves”.
All the best to you -- some of the toughest and finest people I have had the privilege to have met or known by reputation,