CALIPATRIA — For about two years, veteran John Eugenio of Niland has been trying to get a portion of State Route 111 from Calipatria to Niland named in honor of fellow Vietnam veteran and Army soldier Dwayne Maxifield Patterson.
Patterson’s legacy is one of bravery, Eugenio said. He was killed in action while rescuing his fellow soldiers in South Vietnam in 1967. Two of the medals Patterson earned, among others, for his bravery were the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, Eugenio said.
Eugenio’s efforts to honor Patterson, who was a former Calipatria resident, are still in process.
From Eugenio’s understanding, the state Department of Transportation has approved the 4.5-mile section from Calipatria to Niland of Highway 111, but the resolution honoring SPEC4 (Specialist 4) Patterson has yet to be submitted and approved by state Sen. Ben Hueso’s office.
One of Eugenio’s hopes is to get this resolution passed before Hueso’s term is up.
Additionally, it is not certain if or how the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the process.
Once the resolution has been approved, Eugenio said he plans to raise for the $7,000 it costs to have a sign made and erected on the highway.
“I want to do something for Dwayne; he was killed in action in Vietnam, and I am veteran of the Vietnam War, and I thought it would be appropriate for somebody to recognize Dwayne for his actions,” Eugenio said when asked why he has taken on this initiative.
“Personally, I think he should have gotten the medal of honor for what he did. He was trying to rescue his buddies, he was wounded, and he still tried to rescue his buddies,” Eugenio said.
Patterson’s younger brother, Charlie Patterson, shared how his brother’s act of bravery is fitting to who he was.
“I am very proud of him (for his actions), and that sounds just like him, he cared a lot about people,” Patterson said.
Charlie remembers Dwayne as an “all-around good guy,” who was well-liked, loyal and was always there for his younger brother.
“Dwayne was a hard worker, a good guy, and everyone seemed to like him. He had a lot of friends,” Patterson said. “He was (also) loyal. I was his younger brother and he protected me all through school and got me out of messes I couldn’t get out of.”
The Pattersons are from Oklahoma but grew up in Calipatria. When they were younger, they spent much of their time playing baseball, and when they weren’t, they were out on the family farm working long hours.
“Most people didn’t have TV at the time, so we played … that’s what kids did back then,” Patterson said. “We played baseball most of the time and if we weren’t playing baseball, we were working on the farm. Just doing exactly what everybody else did.”
Dwayne later married the current Donna Davis, daughter of Charles “Moe” Siris, the shop teacher at Calipatria High School.
Davis said she remembers how they both loved the outdoors, which is where they spent much of their time together when they first got married.
“We got married on Dec. 14, 1963. When we were first married … we’d go out fishing and shooting. He was an outdoorsman and I was an outdoorsy person, too. I like going shooting with him,” said Davis.
Patterson was employed by Imperial Pre-Mix (a cattle feed additive company), and Davis remembers one of her last memories with him.
“Before he was drafted, his boss let Dwayne and I take a load (of feed additive) to the Sacramento mountain area, and it was like a fun trip for us, before he left for Vietnam,” she said.
Patterson was drafted in September 1965.
Eugenio described Patterson’s time in Vietnam on the website Legiontown.org, a site where veterans write about other veterans.
After basic training, Patterson was transferred to Fort Bliss, Texas, then to Fort Polk, Louisiana, and then, Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he learned how to drive an Armed Personnel Carrier (APC). He then was transferred to Vietnam on March 26, 1967, where he was assigned to the “Big Red 1 Division.” Soon after arriving, he was driving an APC when his vehicle hit a landmine and he was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained.
Unfortunately, after Patterson had recovered from his injuries, he was on a night defensive perimeter patrol on Dec. 3, 1967, when his unit was ambushed by the enemy. Patterson was assisting in evacuating wounded personnel when he sustained his fatal injury.
Eugenio continues by writing, “SPEC4 Patterson was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, Bronze Star for Outstanding Meritorious Service and exemplary professionalism against the enemy, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Medal, National Defense Service Medal; he wore the 1st Infantry Badge; Army Vietnam Class A Patch; 2nd Infantry Regiment Patch and Combat Infantryman Badge.”
Davis said she remembers Patterson as a hero. “He was an honorable man, with a great personality, everyone liked him. He was a hard worker, honest, and he died a hero,” Davis said. “And I think (naming Highway 111 after him) would be a great honor to him and to his family, and it is long overdue.”