Everett Alvarez and John McCain

"War is Personal for McCain and Me"

It is generally well-known by the American public that Presidential candidate and Senator John McCain spent nearly six years as a prisoner of war in the "Hanoi Hilton," the infamous Hao Lo prison.

Less well-known among the general public is McCain's fellow prisoner, Everett Alvarez, the first American aviator to be shot down in North Vietnam. He was held at Hao Lo for almost two-and-a-half years before McCain arrived. Alvarez has the dubious distinction of being the longest-held prisoner of war in Hanoi. The men have been close friends ever since.

Many Americans have criticized our Congressional representatives and Senators for their decision to back President Bush in sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the frequent cry is heard: "Let them send their own sons and daughters!"

Well, John McCain has done just that. Most Americans know that McCain served his country during the Vietnam War. But many do not know that he has sons who also have served and are serving.

John McCain has one son who is a Navy veteran,
one son at the U.S. Naval Academy
hoping to become a helicopter pilot,
and one son serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq

He knows not only what it is like to be an American service member in combat, but also what it is like to worry about a child serving in a combat zone. McCain's father, and his father before him, were US Navy Admirals.

And yet, despite understanding the consequences better than most of us, McCain has held fast in his resolve that America must do what is necessary to win the War on Terror.

Why? Because he also understands better than most of us what the consequences would be of losing that war, or simply walking away, as many would have us do.

Everett Alvarez, who is prominently listed at the top of the list of Veterans for McCain Leadership on the candidate's web site, recently published an article about himself and McCain, and what this war means to them and to our country.

"War is Personal for McCain and Me"

By Everett Alvarez, Military.com
October 25, 2007

"John McCain and I have a personal interest in the success of the war in Iraq. Our sons are fighting in it. When we take positions on the war, it is personal. There are ramifications for our country and our families. We don't assert our opinions with disregard.

John McCain and I have something else in common which has shaped our view of this war. We shared several years together in a prison camp in North Vietnam. This Friday marks the 40th anniversary of the day John McCain was shot down over Hanoi and captured.

At the time, we personally felt the impact when our nation's political will for that war eroded. We both chose the duties and risks that accompany the life of an aviator. We accepted our fates as POWs when we were shot down on bombing raids over North Vietnam. We did not like being propaganda pawns for the North Vietnamese, but we also did not expect our nation to give in to our captors' demands or to the growing U.S. public discontent. We expected our government to have conviction and to seek a resolution from a position of strength, not cave to expediency.

John McCain and I believe our enemy today in Iraq and around the world is radical Islamic extremism, a political movement just as anathema to freedom as communism was -- but amorphous, elusive and cowardly. The Global War on Terrorism is just that: global. It is greater than Iraq.

It would be a mistake to think that an unchecked civil war in Iraq would not have a detrimental effect on our war against global terrorism. Iraq is a major battle ground in what will be a long conflict. There will be more battles around the world if we want to protect the safety and freedom of our country and citizens from potential terrorist attacks on our soil.

Most Americans feel our lives will return to normal if we bring our troops home from Iraq, and that our collective sacrifice for the war on terrorism will only involve longer security lines at the airport. That's the biggest concession our society will willingly endure, and a perception that our current Commander-in-Chief tolerates.

But that is a huge public delusion.

This is going to be a long war -- much like the Cold War. John McCain understands this. That is why he was so adamant in 2003 that we have more troops on the ground in Iraq -- to stabilize the country after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

John McCain was one of the few voices who sounded the clarion call to the Department of Defense and the rest of Congress when he realized we had inadequate resources and worst of all, no exit strategy.

He and I witnessed the nightmare of Vietnam: Political leadership with no post-invasion strategy, and little understanding of the culture and the people we invaded. This strategic weakness has been magnified many times over in this war, despite the drumbeat of warnings from John McCain. I admire him for his steadfast leadership on this issue.

As a nation, we must elect a president who understands that we face an extremist enemy around the world who is intent on destroying our nation and our way of life. This enemy does not operate like a nation -- they operate like gangsters. They prey on the minds of the disillusioned, the downtrodden and the disaffected -- and are surprisingly successful at recruiting a worldwide army to destroy the western way of life through suicidal attacks on soft civilian targets. Our success or failure in Iraq will have significant implications in this worldwide struggle.

John McCain and I agree on this point. He understands the global impact of our foreign policy decisions in Iraq. He believes, as I do, that our commitment to Iraq must be successful. The long-term stakes of not creating a stable Iraq are much too high. As I did, John McCain also served our country honorably.

I know John McCain doesn't arrive at his decisions lightly. He and I take it personally, for we both want to feel that the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform have not been made in vain. We both want to see a world that is free and safe from terrorism."

After returning from Vietnam in 1973, Alvarez remained on active duty until retiring from the Navy in 1980. He was Deputy Director of the Peace Corps from 1981-82, and Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration from 1982-86.

Mr. Alvarez also served on the President's Task Force to improve Health Care Delivery for our Nation's Veterans, and chaired the CARES Commission (Capital Asset Realignment and Enhancement Study Commission).

He is the author of two books: CHAINED EAGLE, about his experiences during his captivity in Vietnam, and CODE OF CONDUCT, the story of rebuilding his life after Vietnam.

Among his many military decorations are the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit (with Combat "V"), two Bronze Stars (with Combat "V"), the Distinguished Flying Cross and two Purple Heart Medals.

Tell us which candidate you support, and why!

Links to the candidates' campaign sites.

Senator Joe Lieberman urges non-partisanship and explains why this election is so critical, and why we must vote as Americans, not Republicans, Democrats, or Independents.

Senator John McCain speaks with the voice of experience.

More about Senator McCain and other Vietnam POW's, including exaggerated rumors about Jane Fonda's visit to Hanoi.

Who is Barack Obama?

2008 Presidential Election.

Regardless of which candidate you support, the most important thing is to cast an informed vote.

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