By Jim Barrett
I went to a funeral Mass at St. Finbar’s in Burbank last week in honor of my old friend, Sal Silva. Sal and I played slo-pitch softball against and for each other the last 15 years. He was a longtime Glendale and Burbank resident and had worked for Disney 41 years. He was always up and a great guy to be around.
We used to kid each other about our Army days. We came out of two different eras and wars, he in Vietnam and myself in Korea. Myself being 14 years the senior. He never mentioned his combat time in Nam. Anyway, while at Mass and at the time of the eulogizing, the speaker mentioned that Sal, serving with the 1st Cavalry in Vietnam, had been awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge).
I almost fell out of the pew. He never, in all our years, mentioned that to me. This guy was a real hero.
Any one of those awards was above and beyond, and the Silver Star is just below the Medal of Honor.
After Mass I hustled over to the reception and asked his beautiful wife Jeannette and son Bob if they had any information on his exploits, and they came up with a ton. At that time in Nam he was a 21-year-old Sergeant in Troop D, 1st squadron of the 9th Cavalry, 1st Cav. Division (Air Mobile).
The Silver Star citation reads “completely disregarding his own safety, he moved forward in order to provide fire support for his commander. Eventually running low on ammunition, he gave his machine gun to another gunner and, continually exposing himself to hostile fire, began carrying ammunition for not only his position, but for all of the personnel. After they were supplied as well as possible, he began transporting casualties out of the contact area, again exposing himself to fire.”
A true HERO!
Now the sad part. After experiencing Drop Foot symptoms early Spring 2009 when suddenly tripping and falling, Sal was later diagnosed with ALS in summer 2010. He would joke that he had 3 years left to live, but if he were lucky, only 2 years. He never gave up though. Just like on the field he swung for the fences and would say he had 5 years left.