LAGUNA NIGUEL — For decades, Arnold Silverman didn’t talk about serving in the Army’s infantry during the Korean War.
“We weren’t really proud of it,” he said Monday, Feb. 25, at his home in Laguna Niguel. “There was no real ending and we didn’t know what was accomplished.”
When he turned 80, though, he decided it was time to open up. By then, he said, he had seen there may have been some benefits from the war.
He wrote about his experiences in the book “My War and Other Stories.”
On Saturday, March 2, Silverman, now 90, will be recognized as the Honored Patriot of the Year during Laguna Beach’s 53rd annual Patriots Day Parade.
He is being honored for his service from 1951 to 1953 in Korea. There, he served with the 35th Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division as a forward observer for an 81-millimeter mortar and recoilless rifle platoon.
More than 38,000 Americans were killed in action in that conflict, nearly seven times the number lost in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the parade, Silverman will be in a line-up of 92 entries including this year’s Grand Marshall Barbara Diamond, Citizen of the Year Sande St. John, Artist of the Year Roxanna Ward, Athlete of the Year Jade Howson and Junior Citizens of the Year Alexis Yang and Cal Nielson.
“It’s a significant honor,” Silverman said. “I was a little intimidated. I’m not a professional patriot. I don’t make a display about it but I help people when I can.”
When Silverman thinks back to the Korean War, he said, some memories are stronger than others.
There was the night he and his fellow soldiers were attacked by the Chinese and North Koreans after they banked their searchlights off clouds to find the Americans.
“We were out there completely exposed,” Silverman said. “They attacked us like Ghengis Khan — screaming and yelling.”
As a forward observer, it was Silverman’s job to locate the enemy and direct fire — one of the most dangerous roles in the infantry.
After seven months of combat on the line, Silverman was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and transferred to the island of Koje-do to guard prisoners of war and to restore security to their overcrowded camp. A few months later, he returned to combat just west of the Iron Triangle as the warring sides attempted to work out a truce.
What he most remembers from his time in the service, he said, was the comradeship with fellow soldiers.
“I remember the need to do what your assignment was, the need to be responsible and the need for unity,” Silverman said. “We were truly brothers. We protected and trusted each other.”
Now, Silverman carries that same responsibility forward. After retiring from a four-decade-plus career in marketing software solutions and managing national sales forces for several mainframe computer companies, he is active in veterans affairs.
He has been the post commander of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He also helps recovering active-duty Marines at the Wounded Warriors Battalion at Camp Pendleton, mentors veterans at the Orange County Combat Veterans Court in Santa Ana, and reads to students at local elementary schools.
Silverman said riding down Park Avenue onto Glenneyre and along Forest Avenue, on Saturday, will be a treat.
“I’m just going to be very proud and thankful that we have patriotic Americans out there,” he said. “At this event, we will all be united. We’ll all be cheering for this country.”
The parade will begin at 11 a.m., rain or shine, at Laguna Beach High School on Park Avenue. It will turn right onto Glenneyre Street, then right onto Forest Avenue for two blocks, ending at City Hall.
Source: Orange County Register