- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Everett Alvarez Jr. became the first American prisoner of war in Vietnam in 1964 and endured 8 and 1/2 years of beatings and torture before returning home. Now, Maryland legislators want to honor the Navy pilot by naming a Montgomery County post office after him.
Introduced by Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Republican, on May 17, the legislation is co-sponsored by the other seven Maryland lawmakers and is expected to be enacted, said Lisa Boepple, Mrs. Morella's chief of staff.
Mr. Alvarez said that despite the time that's gone by, his experience will always be with him.
"Vietnam is in the past, but it's attached to me whether I like it or not. It's like my shadow," Mr. Alvarez said in an interview recently.
His ordeal began Aug. 5, 1964, when Lt. Alvarez's A-4 Skyhawk was the first plane shot down over Hon Gai Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin.
The North Vietnamese fished him out of the water, and after a brief interrogation in the North Vietnamese countryside sent him to Hoa Lo prison the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" in Hanoi six days later.
Lt. Alvarez spent 8 and 1/2 years as a POW in the dirty, rat-infested prison, the first year and a half in solitary confinement. He was fed rice with cockroaches and dead birds.
In February 1973, he was among 462 U.S. servicemen released following negotiations.
"Those are important days of my life, and they're a reminder of just how short life is," he said.
Mr. Alvarez's military career began almost by accident. He was the first in his family to go to college, getting a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Santa Clara in California in 1960. When he flew to a job interview in New Jersey, he found himself more impressed with the plane ride than the job. He applied for Navy pilot training and received his commission in October 1960.
By 1964, Lt. Alvarez was flying A-4 Skyhawk attack jets off the carrier USS Constellation. He was on his first mission responding to attacks on U.S. destroyers when he was shot down.
After being released from the camp, Mr. Alvarez came back to the United States to take on new challenges. He married and had two sons. He served as deputy administrator for the Veterans Administration and as deputy director of the Peace Corps. He wrote two books recounting his experiences during captivity in North Vietnam and thereafter.
In 1987, he became founder and president of Conwal Inc., a management consulting firm in McLean, Va., which he still runs.
Last fall, he campaigned for and worked closely with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and presidential candidate who also was a prisoner of war.
"Most of us POWs are too busy to sit down and look back at Vietnam," he said.
On Sunday, Mr. Alvarez attended 26-year-old son Marc's graduation from George Washington University Law School.
"My proudest achievement is raising a family," he said.
Mr. Alvarez said he feels both surprised and humbled by efforts to name the post office after him. But it would not be the first building to be christened in his honor: A high school in Salinas, Calif. where Mr. Alvarez was born in 1937 bears his name.
Sitting in his office recently, surrounded by pieces of his rich history a painting of the A-4 Skyhawk he was shot down in and a picture of the carrier plane that flew him home Mr. Alvarez reflected on his wartime experience.
"It's my shadow it's not something you continually look at … it's something you have to accept."

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