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June 14, 2024

King Joins Bipartisan Efforts to Award Vietnam War Vet with Congressional Gold Medal

WASHINGTON, D.C —U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME), a member of the Senate Armed Services (SASC) and Veterans’ Affairs Committee (SVAC) has joined bipartisan legislation to award Navy Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr. with the Congressional Gold Medal in honor of his service in the Vietnam War.

On August 5, 1964, while flying Operation Pierce Arrow, Commander Alvarez’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down, and he became the first aviator captured in Vietnam. He spent eight years and six months in captivity, becoming the second-longest held Prisoner of War in U.S. history. While being held in Vietnam, Alvarez crossed paths with the late Senator John McCain, who was also being held as a POW at the H?a Lò prison.

Following his release back to the United States, Commander Alvarez completed his 20-year career in the U.S. Navy in June 1980. Commander Alvarez has earned the Silver Star Medal, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts, and the Prisoner of War Medal. He also served as Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration (now known as the Department of Veterans Affairs), and Vice President for government services with the Hospital Corporation of America. Commander Alvarez was born and raised in Salinas, California and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

“It is an honor to join my colleagues in seeking to recognize the incredible bravery and service of Navy Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr. who spent several years in Vietnam as a prisoner of war,” said Senator King. “The recognition of a Congressional Gold Medal acknowledges all of his sacrifices and contributions in support of our great American ideals: democracy and freedom. I am proud to join this bipartisan effort to forever memorialize the patriotism and sacrifices of Commander Alvarez.”

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Although the first recipients included citizens who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians, pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and foreign recipients.

Joining King on this legislation are Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ). Companion legislation recently passed the House of Representatives.

Representing one of the states with the highest rates of veterans per capita, Senator King is a staunch advocate for America’s servicemembers and veterans. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he previously pressed Pentagon officials on the need to prioritize resources for servicemembers transitioning from active duty to veteran status. Senator King has also worked to ensure American veterans receive their earned benefits and that the VA is properly implementing various programs such as the PACT Actthe State Veterans Homes Domiciliary Care Flexibility Act, and the John Scott Hannon Act. This past fall, he introduced a bipartisan bill to protect the educational benefits of military dependents if the servicemember who transferred them those education benefits is dishonorably discharged from the military due to domestic violence or sexual assault against their spouse or dependent. Additionally, Senator King has introduced the bipartisan TAP Promotion Act and bipartisan legislation to improve transportation to health care appointments for rural veterans.

Senator King also participates in the Veterans History Project is an effort by the Library of Congress to collect, preserve and distribute the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war. The interviews and primary documents from the project are then used by researchers, historians, students, and filmmakers across the country.

Full text of the bill can be found here.


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