A Dove Among Eagles

How the Sister of One Paratrooper Changed the Lives of Tens of Thousands in Vietnam and Beyond

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John H. Neely

5.0 out of 5 stars A revealing and poignant memoir

Reviewed in the United States on February 4, 2020

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Linda Patterson’s memoir deserves to be on the short list of books and films that best interpret the experiences of Vietnam War soldiers and their families. For the uninitiated, it will be broadly eye-opening. For those who know the war only too well, it is poignant. I recommend it to veterans who, like me, have stopped reading Vietnam literature.

Without unnecessary detail or drama, it tells the story of a difficult childhood and an imperfect coming of age in Northern California. Linda emerges as a young woman who was devoted to family but could take the lead in benefiting a larger community when the need became apparent. The book follows Linda’s brother, Joe, who was representative of the stream of young men who volunteered for service at the youngest possible age. It offers simple portraits of Joe and his brothers in arms, in and out of combat. And it unfolds a picture of the fraught home front as Linda becomes aware of it.

The core of the book begins with Joe’s letter to Linda asking if a city in California could “adopt” the 100+ men of Abu Company and send them mail and packages. San Mateo answered their appeal in March of 1968. Joe was killed later in March. By December of that year, Linda was flying to Vietnam as the ambassador of the city. The core ends with her meeting the Abu soldiers at Christmas as they step off Chinooks: “[T]hey wore tattered, muddy, sweat-stained and rain-soaked jungle fatigues … Their faces were gaunt and hollow, scratched and dirty, and … they were so young.” This series of events was probably unique in the war.

Between late 1968 and early 1972, Linda managed the adoptive relationship between the city and the soldiers, long past the date when the last soldier who remembered Joe came home. When Abu flew home as a unit, San Mateo pulled out all the stops to welcome them with days of ceremonies, once again a unique event.

The Gulf War placed large numbers of US troops in sustained danger for the first time since 1972. Linda stepped up and created America Supporting Americans, which since then has used the Abu-San Mateo template to help communities adopt small units. Hundreds of such relationships now exist.

As well as breadth, her memoir has depth. For example, a letter from Joe said, “Sis, you don’t know what’s going on over here. I’m not what you think I am…” Eloquent and true.

And, oh yes, A Dove Among Eagles is in multiple ways a love story. Linda and her family, Linda and Steve, and Linda and thousands of veterans. Read the book before you see the movie version, which should be in the spirit of For the Boys, albeit with a bit less drama.


Paul

5.0 out of 5 stars A Dove Takes Flight

Reviewed in the United States on February 10, 2020

Being one of the original adopted sons of the city of San Mateo California, it brought back memories long ago buried. It was a time our nation seemed to turn its back on the American soldier in Vietnam, but no, along comes Linda Patterson with hope that one city brought our morale up saying we soldiers were important and wanted to say so. Our first look at Linda coming over to meet us in a war zone meant the world to us. We came in from the field dirty, smell of filth and death, haggarded and battle worn, but Linda put on that home town charm which reminded us what was waiting for us if we got back home. The book does better job than I could give it. So much more happen along the way to make this story stand out of many others. It tells the death of one which brought about the birth of many.


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