By andrea Grossman
PHILADELPHIA – Everett Alvarez Jr. didn’t need a rehearsal before he led the nation in the Pledge of Allegiance Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention.
Alvarez, of Rockville, could afford to take the day off – he has led the Pledge of Allegiance at the 1984 convention and again at the 1988 meeting.
“It’s a privilege to be able to do that,” said Alvarez, who was chosen to appear on the podium on the night that the convention’s speeches were focused on national security.
Scheduled speakers Tuesday included retired Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam war hero who mounted an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination this year.
Alvarez said his return to the convention will be like going to a reunion. “There’s a lot of activity, a lot of acquaintances I haven’t seen for years,” he said.
Alvarez shares a friendship with McCain. The two also share the hellish experience of being a Vietnam War prisoner: Alvarez was the first aviator shot down over North Vietnam in 1964. He was taken to the Hoa Lo prison — better known as the Hanoi Hilton — where he remained for eight and a half years. McCain spent five and a half years imprisoned there.
But Alvarez will not be discussing military policy with his old acquaintances. He said he will leave that to McCain and Schwarzkopf.
“I really have no agenda here,” he said. “I am just a participant.”
Alvarez, 62, is a retired Navy commander and a former deputy director of the Peace Corps. In 1989, he wrote a book, “Chained Eagle,” about his Vietnam experience.Alvarez is now the president of Cornwal Inc., a management-consulting firm he founded.
Alvarez said he was first approached by former President Ronald Reagan to say the pledge at the Republican convention. At the time, he was a deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration.