Deep in the Vietnam jungle one night in 1968, a young soldier wrote his older sister a letter.
The letter, written by Joe Artavia to his sister Linda Patterson, asked Patterson to find a city that could adopt Artavia’s troops in the 101st Airborne Division, also known as the Screaming Eagles.
“It would boost our morale as high as the clouds,” Artavia said in the letter to his sister.
Those were the times when soldiers fighting in the depths of the Vietnam jungle were more likely to receive hate mail than care packages. And Patterson didn't hesitate to follow her brother’s request.
On March 4, 1968, at the age of 27, Patterson stood before the San Mateo City Council and asked them to adopt the A Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Screaming Eagles).
The resolution was unanimously approved that night, and San Mateo became the first city in the U.S. to proactively support a deployed combat unit in the Vietnam War, Patterson said.
Artavia was killed in combat a short time later and never got a chance to write another letter to his sister. But Patterson was told by his fellow soldiers that he was excited about the new union between the Screaming Eagles and San Mateo.
And that relationship has only strengthened over time.
On Saturday night, the city hosted a Recognition Banquet Dinner event at Crowne Plaza in Foster City for the Screaming Eagles, with an active duty soldier from the 101 Airborne seated at each table.
San Mateo Mayor Brant Grotte, Deputy Mayor David Lim and the rest of the city council also attended the event, as well as San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer and the mayors of Burlingame and Hillsborough.
“This is what Memorial Day is all about,” Lim told San Mateo Patch outside the banquet. “This is what America is all about.”
Grotte echoed Lim’s statements, saying the San Mateo City Council in 1968 acted bravely when they chose to support the Screaming Eagles.
“This was not a time when councils did this; they had the guts and wisdom to recognize the difference between politics and policies,” Grotte said.
U.S. Army Sgt. Tanner Howbert, the reconnaissance team leader for Scout Platoon Tiger Force, has spent 10 months in Afghanistan and intends to return in the fall.
He was just 22 when he was deployed overseas, and on his very first day in Afghanistan in July 2010 he had bullets fired at him.
“Every day for at least two months” the bullets continued to be fired on a daily basis at Howbert and his troops.
Howbert did patrols, missions, helped clear out valleys, but primarily acted as a reconnaissance scout.
“We were dropped on mountain tops and watched below,” Howbert said. “Some were so high there was snow.”
Howbert was in one of the only platoons to not lose a fellow soldier, though some did get injured.
“It was definitely an experience you can’t get anywhere else in the world,” Howbert said. “There’s nobody else in the world who would like it.”
He paused, then said, “I love it.”
Though the 101st Airborne is due to return to Afghanistan in the fall, only half the troops will be called back overseas from their base at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Howbert is hoping he’s one of them.
San Mateo’s Memorial Day festivities will continue Sunday with a parade at 11 a.m. followed by a barbeque at Central Park. for more details.