SALINAS, Calif. (KION) A couple from Oregon has made it their mission to tell the stories of veterans around the country.
Casey and Andrew Gomez from Bend, Oregon were working on a series, Their Story, for the 75th anniversary to the end of World War II when COVID hit, halting their plans.
After being medically discharged in 2018, the couple decided to completely uproot their lives, sell their things and travel the world.
After traveling the world for four months and coming home, the couple decided they wanted to travel with a purpose and shortly after, the Their Story Veterans project was born.
As veterans from the U.S. Air Force themselves, they believe it is important to tell the stories of veterans before they're forgotten.
Their grandparents both served in World War II and the couple never got to hear their stories.
"Both her grandma and grandpa served in World War II and my grandfather did. All three passed away before we could even hear their stories. That's what sparked this dream," says Andrew Gomez.
Despite the ensuing pandemic, the pair was able to interview Salinas native and Vietnam veteran Prisoner of War, Commander Everett Alvarez, who was beaten and tortured for more than eight years and one of the first pilots to be downed and detained during the Vietnam War. Alvarez was also the second-longest detained prisoner of the Vietnam war.
"It's a story unlike any we're ever heard. His story of resilience and just the heritage that he has left behind and is still currently leaving is unlike any other," says Andrew Gomez.
During the interview with the couple, Alvarez recalls the first time he realized they were entering the war, a moment in time that changed the course of his life.
"Here it was, open, open warfare. We were actually going to war and I said, 'holy smokes.' When you go through an experience like that, you tend to remember every detail and every second for the rest of your life," says Alvarez.
The pair plans to continue their storytelling journey after the pandemic is under control.
"As soon as we get caught up, the nation gets vaccinated, VA homes open back up, we're going to pick right back off," says Gomez.
They plan to visit 16 Veterans Affairs homes circling the U.S. over a span of 13,000 miles.
For their story on Commander Alvarez, click here.
For their YouTube Channel, click here.