Decades after originally adopting a military unit in Vietnam, San Mateo continues to support U.S. troops. NBC Bay Area's George Kiriyama reports.
It was Dec. 18, 1967.
That was the day Linda Patterson received a letter from her brother, Sgt. Joe Artavia, who was fighting in Vietnam. Artavia asked his sister if the city of San Mateo would adopt his unit: A Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infrantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division aka the "Screaming Eagles."
"You see, by having a town or city adopt us, it brings the morale of the guys up as high as the clouds," Artavia wrote.
"I was just overwhelmed with how could we help these soldiers, Joe? What could we do? But I'll do it for you," Patterson thought to herself.
Many of the guys in Artavia's unit were not getting any mail. They felt forgotten. They felt like no even cared.
Patterson approached the San Mateo City Council and asked them to adopt her brother's unit. At the time, no city in America had gone on the record to support the troops in Vietnam. At first, the Council resisted saying her brother was originally from San Francisco and not San Mateo. Patterson, who worked in San Mateo, said that prompted her "to stand up and say he's not from Vietnam either. But he's fighting a war over there."
That powerful statement led the Council to unanimously pass the resolution. Letters and care packages followed.
"It was great for the men frankly," said Steve Patterson, a former platoon leader and Linda's husband. "The letters were the most important thing."
"I was thrilled. I felt just something come over me that I thought wow, I can't wait to tell my brother this good news," Linda Patterson said.
Just two weeks after San Mateo passed the resolution supporting the 101st Airborne, Sergeant Artavia was killed in action.
"I knew his last moments he knew that I had accomplished what he had asked me to do," Patterson said. "And he knew that."
Forty-five years later, Linda Patterson's determination to fulfill her brother's wish hasn't been forgotten. San Mateo continues to reach out to soldiers now serving in a different war...Afghanistan. Last night, former troops of the 101st Airborne in Vietnam talked to their contemporary 101st Airborne counterparts in Afghanistan via Skype inside the Council Chambers.
"It's the symbolic gesture that's being done here which is not only for the 101st, but for all of our veterans," Gary Higgins, President of the San Mateo County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said.
Before the video chat, the audience watched the one hour documentary "City With A Heart". It's the story about the 45 year relationship between the Screaming Eagles (101st Airborne) and the city of San Mateo.