Czechs forge friendships with US veterans
November 24, 2009
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - This year the Czech town of Rokycany held its 20th anniversary celebration, centered around their Veterans of Foreign Wars friends who travel here from all over the globe to share memories of World War II Nazi liberation, the fall of the infamous Iron Curtain, and the current peace they have enjoyed with their American friends in the times since.
Rokycany is a quaint and unassuming town just east of the city of Plzen in the Czech Republic - a town liberated by U.S. Soldiers at the end of World War II, and famous for its demarcation line and monument. The monument, funded by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and unveiled in 1996, is representative of the 1945 agreement between the U.S. and Russians that U.S. forces would not advance further east than Plzen - even though Gen. George Patton's Third Army actually ventured as far east as Prague before being ordered to pull back.
This year's celebration featured a special appearance by 12 male and female cadets from Vilseck High School's 18th JROTC "Falcon" Battalion, escorted by the Commandant of Cadets, retired Sgt. 1st Class Mitchell J. Pollock.
"It has been a great learning and growing experience for the cadets as they get to spend quality time with the veterans and civilians of World War II," said Pollock. "This color guard has been the centerpiece of the annual Veterans Day Ceremony in Rokycany for the last three years. The cadets that have attended will talk about and remember what they have experienced for the rest of their lives."
Dozens of VFW members attended the celebration, and U.S. military representation included four Soldiers of the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, courtesy of their regimental commander, Col. James Blackburn.
Highlights of the Nov. 14-15 celebration included a ceremony at the demarcation monument, a blessing-of-the-flags ceremony at Rokycany's Virgin Mary of the Snow Church, and a one-mile parade led by the Falcon cadets, 2SCR Soldiers and U.S. veterans. The parade culminated in the town's center where hundreds of local citizens and squads of Czech World War II re-enactors gathered with VFW members, friends and dignitaries.
Even after 60 years, it is evident that the Czech people are grateful to U.S. Soldiers for their liberation from German occupation those many years ago. Whether young or old, Czechs come out in impressive numbers every year to observe or participate in the event, and continue to treat the veterans with the respect and hospitality.
VFW Post 9334 member Hal Hedges, a World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veteran worked with former mayor Vaclav Beneda in 1990 to organize the annual Veterans Day celebrations in Rokycany. Hedges continues his rapport with the current mayor, Jan Baloun, and other Czechs who have supported the VFW since the end of their Russian occupation two decades ago.
Whatever the reason these men and women of the VFW have been coming to Rokycany each year, they are undeniably ambassadors for continued good relations with our Czech neighbors for generations to come.
Rokycany mayor Jan Baloun passed out special 20th anniversary commemorative pewter coins, bearing the U.S. and Czech crossed flags, to attendees at the VFW banquet, Nov. 14.