Honoring America, The Pilsen Liberation Festival
May 8, 2014
PILSEN, CZECH REPUBLIC--You'd swear you were back in middle-America as you see the World-War II G.I.'s march down the city square in full combat regalia, true to the iconic imagery of the era. As a motorcade of Jeeps, Half-Tracks and Tanks flow in procession down the parade grounds the only give-away would be the prominence of Czech flags waving in tandem with the Stars and Stripes.
Any American citizen would be welcome in the Czech Republic for the Pilsen Liberation Festival, an annual event that commemorates the freedom of the Czech populace by their American and Belgian liberators from the grips of their Nazi occupiers on May 6th 1945.
"We're here portraying today's U.S. Army as a warning that the war is not over and that we're aware of the situation in the Ukraine," explained Radek Syka, a Czech re-enactor who belongs to a club that replicates the fighting units of the United States Army's 2nd Infantry Division.
During the Liberation Festival, the casual observer will notice a variety of military uniformed re-enactors, many of whom do an outstanding job of mimicking their model U.S. forces down to the most minute details.
"It's to thank the U.S. service members and their fathers and grandfathers for what they have done to keep peace around the world," said Syka, who dons the uniform of a U.S. Army Infantry Captain, complete with combat patches and unit insignia in tribute to the unit's historical battles.
Joining the parade's Czech military enthusiasts are a handful of 16th Armored Division Veterans who have made the trip, to return to the land they liberated so long ago.
Unable to stay after the liberation, one U.S. Soldier brought a part of the Pilzen back with him.
"I had to wait three years after the liberation to return to Czechoslovakia with a wedding dress my sister made so I could marry her," said Stephen Mason, who fell in love with the daughter of the Czech family that housed him after the liberation.
"I installed a field telephone into her house connected to our switchboard so I could talk to her at night," laughed Mason, a young Technical Sergeant who was more than capable of putting the communications skills he'd acquired in England prior to the invasion of Europe into practice.
As if to vicariously applaud the efforts of his former troopers, General George Patton's grandson escorted the handful of enthusiastic veterans on their homage tour to Pilsen.
"If he were here today, I think he would be proud of the Czech people and applaud them in their dedication to freedom and their partnership with theses outstanding American Soldiers," exclaimed George Patton Waters, grandson of the famed U.S. Army Armor Officer, whose resemblance is unmistakable.
The Joint Multination Readiness Center is the U.S. Army's only overseas Combat Training Center. It is part of the Joint Multinational Training Command and trains more than 60,000 soldiers (U.S. and allied) annually.