Did you live in San Mateo in 1968? Did you participate in the parade honoring Vietnam veterans in 1972? If not, here’s your chance to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of supporting the 101st Airborne, including another magnificent parade.
It was a brave move by the city of San Mateo in 1968 at a time when public opinion had turned against the war. It was against that backdrop that a resident, Linda Patterson, responded to a request from her soldier brother, Sgt. Joe Artavia, who was stationed in Vietnam. He asked if the city would adopt his company — A company 1-327 Infantry — by sending letters and care packages because morale was low. Mayor Jack Murray responded enthusiastically and a relationship and warm friendships were established. Between Friday, March 23 and Sunday March 25, San Mateo will be celebrating 50 years of this bond.
By the time of the 1972 parade to welcome home the troops — one of the few welcoming parades in the nation — Sgt. Artavia had been killed in action. For his sister, Linda Patterson, it became her mission to keep the relationship between the 101st and San Mateo alive. And with the help of ensuing city councils and city clerks, it has not only remained alive but spread to other cities.
Starting in 2004, neighboring communities started adopting units of the 101st Airborne. Burlingame in 2004; Hillsborough in 2007; Foster City in 2012; Millbrae in 2013; Belmont in 2016; San Carlos, San Bruno and Atherton in 2017. These cities will also participate in the festivities which include a parade Saturday, March 24 in downtown San Mateo followed by a festival in Central Park and a gala banquet that night. Sunday, there will be a memorial observance at Golden Gate National Cemetery.
Fifty active duty members of the 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles) First Brigade will be flying out to attend the celebration. There will be representatives from each unit that has been adopted by a city and each city will host their respective units on Friday. The rest of the time, all the soldiers will be together for the events. Fifty veterans from San Mateo’s adoption in 1968 will be attending — the original A Company soldiers who the city supported from 1968 to 1972. The city will be hosting them to all activities. Some of the veterans are bringing wives or other family members. Also Linda Patterson and her husband will be attending, and former city clerk Norma Gomez.
A movie was almost made about Linda Patterson, her family and San Mateo’s adoption of the Screaming Eagles. It never was, but Patterson told me she is considering writing a book. She also sent me the following comments pasted on her Facebook page:
“March 4, 1968, a significant day in the history of a city called San Mateo, California. 1968 was a year of anger, grief ... who would know that one city had the courage to answer one young sergeant’s letter, fighting in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division, to “Adopt his unit,” men of A Company, 1/327th Infantry Regiment ... for “morale support.
“It was a tough year for those soldiers and name calling filtered through those torrid jungles from home. It was a year like no other! But, San Mateans turned away from the chaos in the streets, the assassinations, war, protests, that day forward March 4, 1968, they put their love and united as a community towards that young 19-year-old sergeant’s plea, to support his men of Company A (ABU). Letters and packages, symbolic keys to the city poured into Camp Eagle, a Forward Base for the 101st and made their way out to the jungles assuring their “Adopted Sons” America, at least in San Mateo, cared. They came home to an unprecedented “Welcome Home” for three days in 1972. Sadly, Sgt. Joseph Artavia was not among them and with every single soldier who passed through his unit he was always just a shadow behind ... as was the other 792 fallen brothers always in heart and memories. This month, this great American city, of San Mateo, California will honor their original “Sons of San Mateo” and our young Screaming Eagles today — THE SCREAMING EAGLES ARE COMING HOME AGAIN!”
This is how you can participate. Bring your family and friends to the parade. With so many cities participating, Olds is hoping the streets will be packed three to four rows deep along the parade route. You can also buy one of the visiting troops a meal. See the city website cityofsanmateo.org/101st for details.
Sue Lempert is the former mayor of San Mateo. Her column runs every Monday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.