TODAY   |  January 31, 2013

How Vietnam has influenced nominee Chuck Hagel

NBC’s Michael Isikoff speaks to defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s younger brother, Tom, about the lasting influence of their experiences in Vietnam, where they were the only siblings to serve in the same squadron.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> secretary of defense nominee, chuck hagel , faces a senate confirmation today. nbc mike isikoff has more on his experiences in vietnam . good morning, michael.

>> tamron, good morning. when chuck hagel appears before the senate foreign relations committee this morning, sitting behind him is his younger brother tom, a law professor in dayton, ohio. more than 40 years ago, the two were the only accessiblelings to serve in the same army squadron during the war, a real life band of brothers saving others lives and shaping chuck hagel 's thinking to this day.

>> reporter: 1968 , the bloodiest year of the vietnam war , two young brothers from nebraska fighting side by side . they barely survived.

>> the concussion was incredible. it knocked us both down. he was flat on his back, blood all over his chest.

>> tom hagel that day bandaged up and saved the life of his brother, chuck hagel .

>> if you really want to understand chuck and his view on use of force , you have to go back and start at his experiences in vietnam .

>> reporter: just a month after the hagel 's close call , another explosion and this time it was chuck who carried an unconscious tom to safety. years later, hagel was torn when president bush sought support for invasion of iraq .

>> imposing democracy through force in iraq is a role of the dice.

>> reporter: hagel ended up voting for the iraq war but later became one of its strongest critics, forging a bond with then senator barack obama .

>> he understands that sending young americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that's something we only do when it's absolutely necessary.

>> reporter: today, hagel 's nomination has stirred controversy over his openness to engage iran and criticism of the israeli government .

>> i cannot support a nominee for defense secretary who thinks we should be tougher on israel and more lenient on iran.

>> reporter: but tom hagel still has his brother's back.

>> we look at each other and say, you know e, what can they do to you? send you back to vietnam ?

>> despite strong opposition from many republicans, white house officials are now confident barring any unforeseen problems they have the votes to confirm hagel and will soon become the first vietnam vet to run the pentagon.