Aurelio Rojas, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thirty years ago, when the Vietnam War was tearing America apart, Linda Giese Patterson could not convince the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to adopt her brother's paratrooper unit as a show of moral support.
``They'd already adopted the Coral Sea,'' she recalled without bitterness yesterday during a ceremony in Justin Herman Plaza, where her brother's name was one of 163 San Franciscans on the Traveling Wall, a portable replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Time provides balm for even the deepest wounds: Up on the rostrum was Barbara Kaufman, president of the Board of Supervisors, sitting in for Mayor Willie Brown who was in Los Angeles.
Instead of singing his anti-war lyric ``One, two, three . . . what are we fighting for?'' Country Joe McDonald performed an a cappella version of ``Carry On,'' a paean to a dead vet.
The crescendo from the plaza's water fountain muffled tears shed by the veterans' families and lunchtime crowd. Flowers were laid at the foot of the aluminum-paneled Traveling Wall.
Remarks were delivered by representatives of Swords to Plowshares, the San Francisco veterans group that helped to sponsor the display and provides services to traumatized and drug-addicted Vietnam veterans, many of whom are homeless or at risk for homelessness.
But it was the families -- the widows, the fatherless children, the bereft siblings -- who resurrected searing memories of a war that many Americans would like to forget.
Margo McCrice, accompanied by one of her two grown sons, read a letter from her husband, Arthur Timboe. It arrived five days after he died in the Tet Offensive.
The missive included the mundane -- the household bill to be paid, the friends to greet. But in the understated manner of a weary man fighting to stay sane, Timboe wrote of missing his family, although he said he wished someone in his unit would keep his whining to himself.
Atop the Ferry Building across the street, the American flag and an black missing-in-action flag fluttered at half-mast. McCrice emphasized the day belong to men like her husband -- not their survivors.
``We've already been given our recognition,'' she said, summoning the same strength as her husband. ``We were given a service. We were given a flag. And we were told not to talk to the media.''
But to others, like Eloisa Avendano-Johnsen, it was day for closure. She recalled Johnny Anthony Martinez, her Mission High School boyfriend, the boy who took her to the prom.
Before departing for Vietnam, he called her and asked her to pray for him. Her emotions still raw from their breakup, she asked, ``Why?''
``The boys I knew who went to Vietnam all came back,'' Avendano-Johnsen recalled. ``To me, it was an unreal place, something I did not understand.''
When she got word of his death, she said she felt numb. Fighting back tears yesterday, she recalled that for a quarter-century she could not cope with the war -- or Martinez's death.
``Today, he's come home,'' she said, staring out toward the Traveling Wall. ``Today, I think, I have peace.''
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
San Franciscans killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War:
Joseph Borruso Jr.
Robert Clirehugh Jr.
Sam Cole Jr.
Charles Cook Jr.
Kenneth Cruise Jr.
Raymond Dock Jr.
Gerald Douglas Jr.
William Kennedy III
Elroy Felipe Este Le Blanc
William Lynch Jr.
Paul Martinez Jr.
Jose Munatones Jr.
Vincent Murphy Jr.
Dennis Kenneth O'Connor
Luther Page Jr.
Samuel Pierce Jr.
Edward Quill Jr.
Francisco Samson Jr.
H O M E