Vietnam POWs share stories of survival
Retired Navy Adm. Jack Calvert remembers when the last Vietnam prisoners of war were released.
It was February 1973, and he was stationed at Lemoore Naval Air Station in California.
“I remember we were all at the officers club when they were released,” the Minden resident recalled. “You’d see a picture on the television, and somebody would say, ‘that’s so and so,’ and everybody would cheer.”
Calvert, 76, was a naval aviator who flew more than 200 missions in Vietnam.
“I had friends who were shot down and captured. I knew the first two guys that were shot down,” he said. “The Vietnam War was not a popular war and when people came home they weren’t received well. When I look back on that war, if there was any good that came out of it, it was the performance of these POWs.”
At the 2013 reunion of the Tailhook Organization, which Calvert has been a member of for more than 30 years, the theme was the 40th anniversary of the release of the Vietnam POWS.
One of the presentations was a panel discussion with four Hanoi Hilton prisoners, Cmdr. Everett Alvarez Jr., Capt. Jerry Coffee, Capt. Charlie Plumb Jr., and Capt. Porter Halyburton.
The men discussed how they coped and survived years of imprisonment.
“All of them said that when it got to a point that they didn’t know what to do, two things helped them keep going; the contact with other prisoners and their belief in God. The thing I had not heard before was the spirituality they felt at this point,” Calvert said. “They don’t like to talk about it a lot, but they all said they hold no grudges against their captors.”
Calvert is showing a video of that discussion 7 p.m. Sunday at Carson Valley United Methodist Church. The showing is free and open to the public.
“People will come away with an appreciation of what these prisoners went through,” he said. “For these four, I’m sure their lives were affected by this experience. These guys really represent a lot of the guys who were over there.”
During his missions over Vietnam, Calvert said he was shot at, but never hit.
“I got shot at a number of times. I was lucky,” he said. “When I started flying over there in 1964 I was in my mid-20s. You feel very fortunate.”
Calvert said the hour-long video is something he wanted his children and grandchildren to watch.
“My children were young when I was there. My grandchildren know I was there, but don’t know what it was about,” he added. “They should know about the Vietnam War and how these POWs acted. If you understand the sacrifices that veterans have made, and these in particular, then you appreciate your freedom more. At least I hope you would.”
Carson Valley United Methodist Church is located at 1375 Centerville lane in Gardnerville. For more information, call 782-4600.