tv Washington Journal Everett Alvarez CSPAN November 11, 2017 12:29pm-1:11pm EST
honorably in our armed forces, thank you. may god bless you and your families. and this tweet. mooney,resentative alex "on this veterans day we thank all those who have served. i remember my father who served in vietnam and was awarded the bronze star. representaative "happy veterans day to all who served." , and this from representative joe kennedy of massachusetts. "to the generations of brave men and women who have risked life and limb to defend our nation, a grateful country thinks you today and every day. can read more tweets by going to c-span's twitter page and subscribing to our members of congress list. on today's "washington journal" we spoke to a vietnam veteran who was held captive during the war for over eight years.
next, we will hear his story. this is about 35 minutes. was deputy guest administrator for the v.a. at the time the vietnam veterans memorial was dedicated. has been marked by tremendous variations in the mood of the nation. americans still have a difficult time in dealing with that war, with its affect on our society and with the legacy of .hose of us sent to fight it but no one can debate the service and the sacrifice of serving. fell while
that theortunate circumstance by which the more than 2 million veterans returned did not lend itself to the type of welcome given to the veterans of other , or even to those of us who were prisoners in vietnam. but with this long overdue week of activities, and especially , america isdication saying welcome home. here, in this great city where the nation's affairs are buildings newhese and old, that give us a sense of ,ur history and our destiny
washington, also a city of , stonets, landmarks statues, testified to the deeds of those who have shaped the nation we have become. vietnam veterans memorial is unique, vastly different from the monuments of independence, thecipation, that blanket capital. it will be a memorial visible for all time, to come to those who have made and implement our nation's laws, and for those who come to the city to see the symbols of our national strength. it will tell us as no words can,
of the awesome responsibility that we have as members of a free and dedicated society. and here is that man. alvarez, the longest held prisoner in vietnam. take us back to that ceremony. and what does it mean to have the vietnam veterans memorial. >> we finally saw completion of the wall in 1982. it was a huge attendance of vietnam veterans in washington for that opening.
i was totally surprised. i was fortunate to be the deputy of the v.a. at the time. and i was able to say a few words and it is something i will never forget. thei really remember, essence of the vietnam veterans that came, and their families. , andust wanted to be there then when they had the chance to go up and touched the wall, touch the names, that is something i'll never forget. the phone numbers are at the bottom of the screen, for our guests. our guest was a u.s. navy pilot, and aviator shot down in vietnam, and the longest held prisoner in vietnam, for about eight and a half years. take us back to that day in
1964. what happened and what was it like for you. >> i was actually involved in ae night before, in controversial torpedo attack on two destroyers. i was the one that came down with the flares that lit up the sky. up to thisill come thereemains controversial were two airplanes that were shot down and i survived fortunately, my miracle. up andmmediately picked there began the long journey. i was the first one into the prison and hanoi, that was later named the hanoi hilton. i was the first to undergo many of the programs, the
indoctrination programs. i was involved in the 52, i was one of 52 pows marched through the streets of hanoi in 1966. i was interviewed and interrogated by the cubans when they first came into the amount and took over one of the pow camps. i had a lot of -- a long experience. it's something i would not recommend to anybody. but it was something that we as a group, had to learn to survive and to stick together. we had a covert communication system. we had a good military organization. we were able to maintain it under covert conditions. because that camp commander's rules do not permit us to have a duty calls, a regular p.o.w.
structure. for many years it was very tough. conditions were extremely bad. and of course the punishments, the tortures for propaganda purposes, over the years. from 1965 to 1968, things were really bad. but then gradually they started to improve. we saw some light when the paris peace talks began in 1968. that,en after months of and we got our news filtering in their propaganda, we became dismayed again. all they talked about was a round table or a square table. we finally learned in 1969 president nixon had a plan. it was called vietnam eyes asian.
-- vietnamization. it seems to make sense to us. we knew it would take a while longer. it took three more years. in 1970, the raid to try to free the pows that were there. the conditions gradually improving. when you progress was being made in the negotiations. when they finally came to be, nixon started the bombing in 1972. really put the pressure on them. i was in the hanoi hilton when they came over in december of 1972. that was a real experience. and then the day after , christmas, 1972, things became quiet. we had a sense. we knew nixon was not going to give up until the north vietnamese came to terms. and a month later we were on our way home. host: what did that experience mean for you moving forward with the rest of your life? and what should an experience like yours mean to the rest of us?
guest: an experience like the ones i had, that we had -- there are a lot of lessons. a lot of them really bring a lot of meaning to your life. in sort of wakes you up in terms of what it is, what to accomplish in life. for me it was to come back to continue my career, raise a family. things that were basically important and really get back if i could. i was fortunate. i came back. i was not totally disabled. i was not mentally incapacitated. i was able to go forward. and i think that's the result of a lot of prayers. i am very thankful for that. so given that opportunity, i think giving back to the country we served in our military career
and continue to do that we are , fortunate to be here in this country. host: our guest is the son of mexican immigrants, everett alvarez. retired from the navy in 1980 after reaching the rank of commander. we have a lot of folks that want to talk to you by phone, but we will talk more with you about the rest of your life and your experience. let's hear from that, in coatesville, pennsylvania. you are on with everett alvarez, the longest held prisoner of war in vietnam. caller: good morning. mr. alvarez, thank you for your service. at the beginning of the iraq invasion i was shocked to learn how little material support our soldiers had. and i found a site called anysoldier.com, where you can find people to contact to send supplies. i did and all the people i
worked with joined me. that was wonderful. but one guy was in vietnam and had developed cancer. it took many years for them to admit the cancer was associated with agent orange. finally it was. he was given benefits for that. i am wondering about our soldiers of today who are being exposed to horrendous chemicals like depleted uranium munitions. and i just wonder about their fate from developing illness and what experience mr. alvarez has with that. thank you for your service again. everett: thank you. speaking about the effects of the uranium, i am not up to speed on that. but i was working on the time about the agent orange issues back in 1980's. in conjunction with the department of defense, the v.a. did a lot of research at the various facilities and universities around the country.
and they have come up with what i thought was a very substantial report and study on that. in addition to that with the effects of agent orange at the time, especially for vietnam were being addressed, there was always the effort to take and give medical care to the veterans who felt they were impacted and suffering from the effects of agent orange. today i understand that there are a lot of presumptions that have been put forth, that would give the veterans that feel the effects and are debilitated by exposure to agent orange to receive medical benefits and monetary benefits as well, compensation for that. i think we have come a long way. unfortunately it takes a while. just like anything a lot of this
, has to be approved by congress and -- when i was there at the v.a. we tried and tried. and i'm sure the people who are there today, not only at the ba but at the department of defense are working hard to try to get the veterans the attention that they deserve. host: michael in portland, oregon. good morning. guest: good morning. everett: good morning, sir. host: michael, you are on the air. caller: i just wanted to know if this man, mr. alvarez, knew another pilot, a fighter pilot. and that is basically what i a paul ask, if you knew h speer, who flew and fa crusader. host: what was a last name again?
caller: paul. h. spear. he has probably died now, but i worked underneath him. i was his steward. and i'm just wondering if he knew the man. paul h speer and he flew and f8 crusader. guest: the name does not ring a bell. i may have run into a person with that name in the past, but at this point in time i don't recollect that name. host: i want to show a brief clip of the conversation we had with senator john mccain, who was shot down as well and held as a prisoner of war. with us as part of american history programming, 50 years later, the vietnam war and talked about his experience. here is a look. mccain: when i first
went in, it's a long story but i , was barely able to get back to the surface. and then a bunch of them jumped in and i'm sure there is a picture of a bunch of them pulling me out of the lake. you can see my arm is broken up high. and then, once they pulled me out, they were not happy to see me because i had just finished bombing the place. so they got pretty rough. they broke my shoulder and hurt my knee again. and, but look, i don't blame , them. i don't blame them. we were in a war. i did not like it, but at the same time when you are in a war and you are captured by the enemy, you can't expect to have tea. short, theyry
pulled me out of the lake, put truck, beat me up a little, or a lot, and then went hilton,ow-famous hanoi which was just a short drive away a five minute drive away. , then it is a long story about how they found out who my father was and decided to give me treatment and two wonderful americans, who thought they moved me in to die. and they took care of me and they nursed me back to health. after they saw me in better andafter they saw me in better health, they put me into solitary confinement. and look, i don't hold a grudge against the north vietnamese. i don't like them. there are some i would never want to see again. but at the same time i was part , of a conflict. i thought they were some of the meanest people i had ever met in my life and i never want to see
again. host: mr. alvarez, do you know senator mccain? guest: i know him very well. he's an example of the closeness, camaraderie and dependence we had on each other. he was severely injured and depended on those two individuals to take care of him. i can cite countless examples of the same thing happening to others who were badly injured. but it was because of the care and the feeding and the cleaning unable toe was just do anything for himself, this is just the love that was shown with each other. and to this day we pows remain a tight group. host:, to his point, i don't blame them, we were in a war. having gone through what you went through, how you are to a point like our you don't blame
them? guest: you have to realize the vietnamese people at the time lived in a tyrannical regime. they do with a are told. -- they do what they are told. basically they were told to treat as badly, and they would. to treatthey were told us nicely and they would. , i share the same feelings. i blame the system they were living under and hopefully things are evolving different me today. again, i don't blame them. we used to have a saying. some day we will go home. these poor people have to stay here. that goes to show how fortunate we are, to live in this system country, to have the basic freedoms delineated in our constitution, which is what we were fighting to defend and give
other people the same opportunity. to live under the freedom we have here. host: john from illinois. good morning to you. caller: good morning. everett, i saw you in 1982 at the dedication. i have got survivor's blessing. i talked three grammar school buddies and adjoining the marine corps. nam in 1970. harvey, they got a got the medal of honor. my wife's first cousin was on a hilltop with a fellow named kenny case from southern illinois that got the medal of honor. i have survivor's blessing. i have read many books from you guys, the pows and the medal of honor winners for inspiration in my life. you said earlier, of gratitude.
could you speak to the resilience that you guys have shown, through the years? i made it. i have got it written on my grease board. i'm 67 years old and retired. i feel like a million dollars. the the a has treated me like a king. speak to the resilience the end have, and shown was the rest of america. host: thank you. everett: a belated happy birthday to youm marine corps a belated happy birthday to marine corps buddies. with regard to the resilience
that we showed, we could never give up hope. as a result we knew we had to depend on each other for survival. we had to keep each other going day after day. wave after wave of purges would come by the camp commander in the guards when they would force us to do things against our will. but we had a basic thing, to resist, resist their efforts because what they wanted us to do was against our basic principles as american military people. we learned that you resist and you get to a point where you say i am going to have to face this again, i am going to have to resist. you give a little bit to get them to back off. sure enough, weeks later or a month later here they come , again. yet you have to undergo some , physical punishment. it was all in defense of what you really believe. you, as an individual your , integrity. it enabled us to go through. it was not easy and i don't know if i could have done it by myself. i had to depend on the support of my fellow pows over there.
it was something we learned that we carry, i think, we carry through for the rest of our lives. we all face challenges, and the ability to look forward, and overcome these challenges, we always did the best we can. we did do the best we could well we were there. i have found over time that this attitude, this approach, this positive way of looking at things and looking at life is key. it is essential in having a successful life. and i think that was another lesson that came out of that experience. it was a constant challenge. it was tough. but we made it. as john talked about earlier, it was something we find was beneficial.
our beliefrooted in now. so you can look at life and face , any challenge, just about. i have been fortunate to be able to achieve quite a bit. looking back, i will be 80 next month. so i have been very fortunate. , host: our guest is been awarded the silver star, two legions of merit, two bronze stars and two purple hearts. and, the u.s. navy lone sailor award. everett alvarez is the longest-held prisoner of war in vietnam. educated at santa clara university, masters degree. a masters degree. and also a law degree from george washington university. you wound up moving into the
business world and developed a very successful business. from the time he came home to the time you started that successful business, how did it all come about? everett: i happened to be at the right place at the right time. , one of my classmates at santa clara, a small school, was leon panetta. i have known leon for many years. basically, i came home and from vietnam governor reagan and -- from vietnam, and governor reagan and later president reagan, i got to know his staff people and was invited to join the administration when he was elected president. i was deputy of the peace corps for a year and a half and then went over to the v.a. issues at the v.a. or agent -- issues at the v.a. were agent orange and others. i was able to serve as a number two at the v.a. i really enjoyed that work. when i left the administration, and i formed my own consulting federal government
contracting business. and i have had one success after another. it was not easy. it was a lot of hard work but you get used to it. it becomes part of your psyche, to work hard i learned that as a , kid. you will never get anywhere unless you work hard. guest: with from betty in marlborough, massachusetts. thank you for waiting. caller: how are you? good morning, mr. alvarez. first of all, i would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for serving our country. i can't even imagine what you went through over there. but also you said you have a , birthday coming up? i would like to wish you a happy birthday. you look wonderful, by the way for your age. , i have a friend, a dear friend of mine that went through the v.a. hospital. he is being treated now but he has very bad respiratory issues agent orange.
before my eyes he is dwindling , away. he's just like a toothpick. it is horrible. i can't even imagine you, senator mccain. you guys are my heroes. what do you say to the draft j. trump saying , you are not heroes. that sickens me to my stomach. you are the bravest man to me. you are such a hero. that's all i wanted to say. everett: thank you, betty. i don't consider myself a hero. i served with heroes, others that did things that were unbelievable. i was just doing my job. along with a lot of others. so, from that regard, it was something where we found ourselves in a situation as pows and we just had to do what we had to do, to live through it
and survive. this is a free country. one of the things we fought to preserve is the freedom of speech and freedom of having an opinion. and a lot of individuals speak -- they speak their piece. they don't always agree with us. we don't always agree with them. with regard to vietnam, it was a complex, controversial -- it still is. it will be until our generation dies out, much like the civil war. in our particular case we made , it. president nixon brought us home. a lot of us feel very indebted to him. and we are just fortunate to be able to be here and have the opportunities, and the successes we have experienced ourselves.
host: let's go to robert in st. louis. you are on with everett alvarez. caller: commander alvarez, i am a vietnam veteran. when you and john mccain strapped on those flight suits, followed the orders you were given, one thing i learned in vietnam, nobody knows when they will have their name on an artillery shell. you put yourself in harm's way. [indiscernible] but what makes me cry this
morning is to hear that men and women who died for our country, hadwe have a president who bone spurs and he didn't go and he is the beneficiary. thank you sir, for your service. guest: many of the veterans whether they were drafted went over and served honorably and are proud of their service, came back and carried on with the rest of their lives. the vietnam experience of coming home, we came home and were given a heroes reception. it was overwhelming. what about those poor kids? the 19, 20, 21 kids who can, and didn't have it.
many of them came home in caskets and their names are on the wall over here. they served honorably and they gave it their all. wasn't fair. i have always felt that we should have known better. today, there is a theme. don't blame the war on the warrior. so many of the decisions and the way that war was carried out was political. we saw it four years. our pilots, we were going up against them but we could not go near the bases. were shot downat by surface to air missiles that we could not touch the missile sites. and suppliesent being unloaded by the ships and
we couldn't go -- it was a crazy 1969,'sit wasn't until 1968 that a try to make sense. caller: good morning. i want to appreciate everett's service to our country. i am a vietnam widow, 47 years. i had my first hearing in march of this year. the only benefit i get is my purple heart license tags. i still don't know what's going to happen. orangerd about the agent , i don't know what will happen to my case, but i have been i was left for four --
with four dollars, all professional women. i am still fighting for something for myself. i was so glad that i was able to year, froming this day one they told me i had to prove to the government that my vietnams death was service connected. i have not gotten nothing yet but i have not given up. --rescient ofst: that is an example dealing with a large yurok receipt -- a large bureaucracy.
i also think it is important to point out the sacrifices of the families. here she is, with no left with children. so many examples of how they have to struggle with the after effects of losing their loved one like that. my hat goes off to the families and especially to the young veterans, who are remembering the service. especially the gold star family who lost. i also want to acknowledge those individuals on a day like today. host: one viewer at twitter wants to know, as a veteran as it colored your perspective on war in general? guest: nobody that i note likes war. june -- joined a new
there was a risk, it was involved inut i was the very first axis into vietnam and the escalation of the activities in vietnam at that time. i found myself in the middle watching the war around me. nobody likes war. warseople who have fought are the ones who know what it is like. it has not changed my thinking on it at all. colorado.from caller: good morning. and 77. i was off the coast of korea -- vietnam in the navy, i want to , isay that i read your book
.lso from that era i wanted to tell him i appreciated his service and his courage before -- trying to get into the navy and aviation and afterwards, it is fantastic. thank you very much. host: final thought? day, our this veterans hats go off to our individuals who go and volunteer and in the case of vietnam who were drafted, but really the ones who are off serving today are the -- and the ones who served in the past, the sacrifices they made, the thanksgivings, the christmas, long periods away from their families, they give up a lot.
it is all because of the strong believe of service to our country and in the defense of the freedoms that we have here and trying to expand those freedom to other peoples who are in other nations around the world. to salute those individuals, the youngsters. they are a tremendous group. the veterans, thank you for your sacrifice. buddies, ie corps get belated happy birthday. >> here's a look at one of the books you wrote, called "chained ego." it has been a pleasure to have you here.
president trump: we want to thank all the veterans who thended our union and strong families whose unwavering support allows you to answer the call of duty. we applaud your service and salute your sacrifice, and pay tribute to your profound patriotism and love of our country. freedom withed our your strength, determination, and truly unbreakable resolve. america's veterans are this country's greatest national treasure. there's nothing close. you're the best role models for our youngest citizens and you are the constant reminder of all that is good, decent, and brave. you have given this country all
that you have to give, and just as you fulfill your duty to americans, now americans must fill our duty to all of you. we must ensure that our veterans are given the care and support they so richly deserve. is our unwavering commitment to those who served under the flag of the united states. is the highest honor of my life to serve as the commander-in-chief of our heroic armed forces, and our obligation to our courageous men and women is absolute. it must provide our service with the best equipment, resources, training, and support in the world, and we must ensure that support continues after our heroes return to civilian life as veterans. we are very, very proud of them. today, i ask all americans to show their love, support, and anditude to you, the men
women who make freedom possible, to protect america against all of its enemies and who sacrifice forges the noble bonds of peace. there is nobody like you. no words can service a better tribute to your service than the and the cities and towns that live in freedom only because of you. fire,trength is america's your devotion is america's a and your patriotism is america's beating heart. so today, and every day, the shared part of the american evil beads with pride for our beloved veterans. on behalf of ourselves, millennia, my entire family and are grateful nation, thank you to each and every one of america's veterans read may god bless you and your families, and may god bless united states of america. thank you.
>> c-span, where history unfolds daily. 1970 nine, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> the senate homeland security committee met this week to consider the nomination of kiersten nielsen to become homeland security secretary. she faced secretary -- questions about cyber security, homegrown terrorism, and the vulnerabilities and election systems. she also discussed the president's policies on immigration enforcement, telling lawmakers she does not support construction of a border wall along the entire u.s. southern border. she previously served as chief of staff to former homeland security secretary john kelly. this confirmation hearing is ju