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Salute To Patriotism Hosted Through AVF
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Congressional Medal of Honor holder Robert M. Patterson speaks to an audience at American Veterans First in Riverbank on Friday evening, May 21, ahead of the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend. Ric McGinnis/The Leader
Sergeant Major Patterson did a meet and greet for guests at American Veterans First's Love America event. Ric McGinnis/The News

American Veterans First (AVF) hosted Medal of Honor recipient Command Sergeant Major Robert M. Patterson at a Love America, a salute to patriotism event held this past Friday in Riverbank. The May 21 gathering paid tribute to veterans and active military in all the armed forces.

“I thought it was excellent,” stated AVF CEO Duke Cooper about the event. “It went very smooth. Sergeant Major is a great speaker. He engaged the audience from the start to the finish. It was very well done.”

There were several people in attendance including veterans, active military, several city officials and community members from the surrounding area. The colors were presented and the guests rose for the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem was played and then Cooper introduced Riverbank Mayor Richard O’Brien, who is a veteran as well. He addressed the crowd and thanked the veterans for their service. O’Brien presented Cooper with an award for the Vietnam Veteran pinning ceremony.

Medal of Honor recipient Command Sergeant Major Patterson addressed the crowd and shared some stories, noting that he is not politically correct.

“Vietnam veterans, welcome home,” said Patterson during his speech. “Veterans, thank you. Thank you for your service and thank you for your sacrifices and thank your families for their sacrifices to allow you to fight this country’s war.”

Sergeant Major Patterson served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1969 for his act of bravery and valor during an assault against the North Vietnamese after his platoon was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. With rifle in hand and as many grenades as he could carry he destroyed five enemy bunkers. This heroism allowed his platoon to continue the attack and diffuse the enemy’s defensive position.

“I thought the event was great,” stated Riverbank Police Services Chief Ed Ridenour. “I was honored to be able to meet and listen to Command Sergeant Major Robert M. Patterson. His act of bravery undoubtedly saved numerous American lives during the Vietnam War when his platoon encountered a fortified and entrenched enemy.”

After his speech, Patterson presented Cooper and AVF with a limited edition Medal of Honor book that he also autographed.

“He is really a humble man and it is an honor, number one, to meet a command sergeant major but also a Medal of Honor recipient, wow,” expressed Cooper. “A standout moment for me was when he presented me the book. What an honor.”

There was a video played for guests that talked in depth about Patterson and his time in Vietnam that warranted the honor. In the video Patterson shared, “A person who wears the Medal of Honor is not wearing it for themselves, they are wearing it for everyone that was there and particularly for the ones that didn’t come back. It is much harder to wear that ribbon than to earn it.”

Guests applauded throughout the event where a feeling of pride, unity and patriotism was not only shown but felt. U.S. Military hymns were played for each of the branches of military during the event. Veterans in the crowd were recognized and applauded. Vietnam veterans were honored and they received a 50-Year Vietnam Veteran pin at the event. There were over 200 guests in attendance.

There were refreshments offered and cake was handed out by the Ripon JROTC. The young cadets assisted AVF with the event including the setup and cleanup after it was over to which Cooper added that “they were a great help and did a great job.”

“Americans Veterans First is an amazing organization that provides support and remembrance of our veterans and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty,” added Ridenour. “I was equally impressed on how many attended from the public to show their support to these heroes. Riverbank is truly an amazing community full of great people.”

Although the event took a few months to plan and there was a process to go through to have Patterson at the event because he is a Medal of Honor recipient, the hard work payed off, according to Cooper, as he has made a new friend and the event was a success.

“We love America and we salute our patriotism,” remarked Cooper. “We will always continue that. At the end of the whole thing it made me really realize how much I love America and how much I salute patriotism.”

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As part of his remarks at a special Salute to Patriotism on Friday, May 21, Congressional Medal of Honor holder Robert M. Patterson welcomed his fellow Vietnam Veterans home. He is shown here on stage at American Veterans First in Riverbank and just behind Patterson is AVF CEO Duke Cooper, whose efforts brought the distinguished veteran to town. Ric McGinnis/The Leader
During the Salute to Patriotism event, there was a video shown of Sergeant Major Patterson and his experience in Vietnam. Ric McGinnis/The News