By Arnold silverman
Ever since I was a kid I’ve hated parades. When I was growing up in Washington D.C. in the ‘30s and the queen and king of England came to visit President Roosevelt, I turned down my father’s invitation to go downtown and watch the parade. And year after year when the time for the school safety patrol parade rolled around, I protested my being forced to march in them. Of course, in service I had no choice. Either you spiffed and polished up and marched well, or you never saw the outside of that base.
To this day I can’t explain it. Maybe as a kid I did not like standing around in crowds and, being so small, not being able to see anything. Or maybe it was the noise. I really don’t know. But to this day I hate parades.
That said, when Ben Blount, then the VFW post commander, asked for volunteers for the Patriots’ Day parade because the flu epidemic seemed focused on members of the post (half the members did not show up for the meeting that day), I did something I was warned 1,000 times against in basic training. I volunteered.
I was handed a dress khaki shirt with a VFW patch on the left sleeve and a star-forward flag patch on the other, a yellow kerchief and a pair of white gloves, and advised to show up at Laguna Beach High School at 10 a.m. on the day of the parade.
I did as “ordered”. As I arrived in the area, however, I realized that this was going to be a special day. I had never seen so many enthusiastic, positive, truly patriotic people at one gathering before. When you consider the size of Laguna Beach, the number of people gathered to watch the parade that day was amazing. Also, considering the antipathy then towards the situation in Iraq and the political dichotomy prevalent in the nation, I did not expect such a positive gathering. As a matter of fact, I anticipated angry and vociferous expressions of disagreement and dissent. They did not occur.
When our joint American Legion and VFW members color guard lined up and commenced to march, applause and expressions of appreciation greeted us. Surprised, I must confess I was so deeply moved my eyes welled up in pride. I realized then that whatever the feelings and emotions towards the events in Iraq and the handling of the war in general, those lining the streets were patriotic Americans who both supported our young people now serving the nation, and appreciated and respected the service that we had performed in our respective times in the past. Several times I found myself emotionally reacting to the applause we received as we followed the parade route.
I have to confess that I enjoyed this year’s parade. The weather was Laguna Beach perfect, and the comradeship and goodwill of those genuinely fine veterans who marched with me and the joyous spirit of the crowd made for a great day. I guess after all of these years, I’ll have to reconsider my view of parades. I hope to see you there next year.
Arnold Silverman, commander of the Laguna Beach VFW Post 5868, served in the Korean War