America Supports You: City Celebrates 40 Years of Troop Support
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2008 A shade more than 40 years ago, the city of San Mateo, Calif., took an unprecedented step : it “adopted” Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
City officials say it was a courageous decision for the council to make, given that in March 1968, the war in Vietnam was still raging and many American citizens held a chilly attitude toward the country’s troops.
According to a San Mateo news release, a simple letter from a young soldier serving in Vietnam set the wheels in motion.
“On December 18, 1967, while serving in Vietnam, (Army) Sgt. Joe Artavia, a young man concerned about the lack of mail the members of his troop were receiving, wrote to his sister, Linda Patterson, requesting that she work toward getting a city to adopt his unit,” city officials said in the release.
Today his request would be easy to fulfill, as more than 350 groups are dedicated to supporting the nation’s troops -- including America Supporting Americans, which Patterson founded.
America Supporting Americans is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.
Forty years ago, however, the soldier’s request took some doing to fulfill. On March 4, 1968, Patterson succeeded in getting the San Mateo City Council, led by Mayor Jack Murray, to unanimously agree to adopt her brother’s unit. Upon learning the good news, Artavia wrote to his sister to tell her the morale of his fellow soldiers was “raised as high as the clouds.”
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t see the swell of support from back home. Artavia was killed in action on March 24, 1968.
When the war ended and Alpha Company came home in January 1972, it was to an unprecedented reception, according to the news release. San Mateo hosted a welcome home parade and three-day celebration for its adopted sons.
The city has remained close with the unit through the years, offering support during Operation Desert Storm and again during recent deployments.
Recently, the council received a special package from its adopted soldiers.
“We are very touched to have received Alpha and Bravo Company flags that were flown in Iraq during their present deployment … and a wonderful letter from (Lt. Col. Pete Wilhelm, commander of 1st Battalion, 237th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team),” said Norma Gomez, San Mateo city clerk, in correspondence to Patterson.
The council plans to read the letter and acknowledge the gifts as part of its recognition of its 40 years of troop support during tonight’s council meeting. The council also will hold a reception tomorrow morning at the city’s main library.
Patterson and her husband, Steve, a member of the originally adopted Alpha Company, will be on hand for the festivities.
In a way, Patterson also will be celebrating her own support of the troops over the past 40 years. The success that began with her original request to the San Mateo City Council inspired her to found America Supporting Americans, a nonprofit organization linking military units with adoptive communities across the country.
Information on the celebration can be found on the America Supporting Americans Web site.