In Memoriam: The Boys Of Praha
It gave you a component in something that you would imagine in wholly and fully and during which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who were engaged Frost in it. It was one thing that you just had never known before however that you had skilled now and also you gave such significance to it and the reasons for it that your own death seemed of complete unimportance; solely a factor to be prevented as a result of it would interfere with the efficiency of your obligation.”
Ernest Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls
They now not exist. And even within the Texas farm nation where they had been boys, their names are slipping from memory. Individuals who stay among the inexperienced hills listed here are hardly more more likely to know about Praha’s loss than the strangers who journey the dark farm-to-market roads of their pickups and minivans, taking scenic detours on their way to Houston or San Antonio. That is understandable. Being instructed the factual historical past doesn’t make the truth about Praha more believable. A visit, however, to the church and cemetery at Praha will go away the customer carrying away a distinctly American heartache.
The few thousand visitors traveling to Praha for Veterans Day ceremonies approach from the north, noticing first the stark, white steeple of the parish church, which hovers brightly over the panorama. The blacktop of FM 1295 runs south off of U.S. Highway 90, instantly at the Church of St. Mary’s Assumption. Near the cemetery, the pavement curls again deferentially to the west and infrequent traffic passes quietly, the distant hiss of wheels on asphalt inadequate to disturb the serenity of a spot many U.S. navy veterans have come to view as virtually holy.
Praha provides old soldiers a measurement of kinds for concepts like the price of freedom. There’s, although, something incalculable, not possible to assess or even perceive, about the unhappy historical past of Praha. At the moment, it’s little greater than a ghost of a city with solely about two dozen residents. The brand new Handbook of Texas claims the population never surpassed a hundred folks throughout the twentieth century. These numbers are where the anguish begins in Praha’s tearful truth.
After Veterans Day ceremonies conclude, the curious and the proud stand in front of the 9 graves. There, they fight to grasp how conflict’s bloody arm may reach this far, gather up this a lot life and destroy it. By the dates on their tombstones and the locales of the deaths, the Allied offensive against the Nazis, Mussolini and the Japanese is recorded in the destinies of those nine fallen farm boys. Little Praha was not protected from World Warfare II by statistical improbabilities.
Pfc. Robert Bohuslav died Feb. 3, 1944, after Patton’s and Rommel’s tanks had already pushed deep into North Africa, and the worst of the combat had handed. Three more sons of Praha went down in France, beginning the week after D-Day. The Battle Division despatched notices of dying to the households of Pfc. Rudolph L. Barta, June sixteen; 1944; Pfc. George D. Pavlicek, July 7, 1944; and Pfc. Jerry B. Vaculik, July 23, 1944. In Italy, Pfc. Adolph E. Rab grew to become a casualty of battle two days after Christmas 1944. Pvt. Joseph Lev, shot in the stomach through the attack of Luzon Island, died July 24, 1944. Pfc. Anton Kresta Jr.’s life ended in that same tropical theater on Feb. 12, 1945. On Sept. 7, 1944, Pvt. Eddie Sbrusch was misplaced at sea in the Pacific. Nineteen days later, Pfc. Edward J. Marek died in battle at Pelelieu Island. All their lives were misplaced, ironically, as an Allied victory appeared inevitable.
Within the area of 12 months and 9 days, Praha gave up most of its youth — and nearly all of its future — to confront unimaginable types of evil on faraway continents.
The soldiers are buried in the Praha cemetery in two rows of four and three; Eddie Sbrusch’s empty grave lies just to the northeast; George Pavlicek’s remains relaxation in a household plot throughout the stroll. Veterans Day 2002 finds the tombstones marked with small fluttering flags, toppled vases of plastic flowers, and picket posts mounted with military service shields and American Legion emblems. The graveyard is unprotected from the pressing Texas sun, however nearby a centuries-outdated post oak tree reaches out with a promise of eventual shade.
These males are remembered, but not extensively, and they are honored by name every Veterans Day. The loss to their households, however, and to the parish of Praha, is barely acknowledged by Cheap Stone Island historical past. The commonality of their sacrifice, it has been argued, is what made it so powerful and gave America a supply of righteousness. Veterans who collect, on the Praha church grounds every Nov. 11 tell bystanders, “With out places like Praha, there would be no place like the United States.” However what struggle did to Praha nonetheless hurts. And it at all times will. Lastly, the town itself — mortally wounded by circumstance — turned a casualty.
When the route alignment of the Southern Pacific Railroad situated the tracks about a mile north, Praha’s population and economy were drawn away to the prospects of a rail line. A city named Flatonia, just over the rise from the Praha Catholic Church, grew to become an agricultural crossroads and a stop on the Southern Pacific route. Cash and enterprise left Praha to develop with Flatonia. Praha was never to change into a lot grander than a small country parish with farm and ranch households settled on acreages across the gothic church structure.
At the outset of World Struggle II, Flatonia and Praha were no different than many other rural communities across the American landscape. Patriotic fervor led folks to assemble scrap steel and rubber, delivering the supplies further east on the rail line to the larger city of Schulenberg. Younger males were coming in from the countryside to enlist and say their goodbyes before leaving for boot camp and deployment overseas. To call it a simpler time, though, is to belittle the emotional and mental complexity involved in the choice to serve. Even alongside the dirt roads of Fayette County, Texas, families understood that Hitler and Japan represented greater than just a menace to Europe and the Pacific.
Nonetheless, no one was ready to ignore the patriotic enthusiasm that adopted the boys by their military careers. As they went away for training and duty, tales about them started to look on the entrance pages of the native newspapers. The Flatonia Argus ran photographs and headlines of hometown soldiers every time they have been promoted in rank or had been dispatched to an vital battle. Letters written home from the entrance or from primary training have been often printed on the front web page of The Schulenberg Sticker. Caught up in the national compulsion to sacrifice and serve, no headline was too bold nor any copy too extreme.
A 1943 version of the weekly Flatonia paper included a full-web page ad urging residents to buy extra warfare bonds. The message, with its stirring illustration, should have undone every conscience in a 5-county region. The drawing in the ad reveals a soldier together with his mouth open and eyes bulging in shock. Beneath his stricken countenance, the bold typeface asks, “I died at present. What did you do “
In Praha, they started to endure. A discover of the neighborhood’s first casualty was delivered in March 1944. Instead of a daring headline and a photograph, The Flatonia Argus reported the demise with a couple of matter-of-reality lines of copy in its March 16, 1944, version.
“The Battle Department has notified Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bohuslav that their son, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav, was killed in motion in Northern Africa. Services were held in St. Mary’s church in Praha this past Sunday. Bohuslav died in Africa on Feb. 3, 1944. Along with his parents, he is survived by two brothers, Ernest Bohuslav of Halletsville and Herman Bohuslav of Praha.” The reporter did not mention the names of Bohuslav’s sisters.
“There isn’t a Sunday in church when I do not think about him and pray for him,” mentioned Herman Bohuslav of Corpus Christi. “He was my big brother and he was everything to me. I can nonetheless see the two males from the Army developing our farmyard to provide the message to Momma and Daddy. It took me a number of years before I used to be even able to believe it had happened. I simply saved believing my brother would come home.”
At age 74, Herman Bohuslav has enjoyed the complete life that war robbed from his brother. He settled on the Texas coast along with his spouse, opened a grocery retailer and fuel station, and raised five children who’ve provided him with 16 grandchildren. Bohuslav, however, has neither bitterness nor anger over his brother’s destiny.
“I am certain what he did, he did for us,” Bohuslav said. “I mean, there were some evil people on the planet back then, you recognize. And something had to be done. My brother was part of what needed to be completed.”
A scan of subsequent editions of the Flatonia publication offers no additional info of how Pfc. Bohuslav encountered his fate. No reportage is current to indicate the battlefield or his mission in Africa. The main points of the end of Pfc. Bohuslav’s life are undoubtedly locked up in Pentagon files in Washington on a database or in a drawer where his story is not simply accessed. Past the fence line of the Praha cemetery, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav is hardly more than a statistic.
To his household, nevertheless, he is the one who missed all of the years with youngsters and travel and holidays and holidays. He might have lived to ninety, as did his father, or to his mid-80s, like his brother and sister. Bohuslavs are given to longevity. The private’s oldest sister is 85 and his eldest brother is stone island jackets with badge on shoulder 83. Instead of working the farm, though, Pfc. Bohuslav commanded a bazooka, won two Purple Hearts and died on overseas soil.
The general public was told slightly extra about Pfc. Joseph Lev of Praha. As the U.S. began an offensive towards the Japanese, Lev was part of the bottom assault at Luzon Island. The announcement of his loss of life was published in the Flatonia paper with the imminently predictable language.
“Mr. and Mrs. Emil J. Lev had been notified by the Warfare Division last week …”
Lev, who came from a family of six children, was killed in motion in July 1944. Apparently, the Lev household had too many children for the paper to checklist their names, and the two short paragraphs concluded with the knowledge that one brother and four sisters survived Lev. Argus’ headline pronouncing Lev’s loss of life was accorded no larger type than articles of lesser consequence, reminiscent of “Backyard Club to satisfy Sat.” and “Barbecue Set for Labor Day.”
Regardless of how Pvt. Lev’s days unfolded previous to Luzon, his ending bore the drama of a movie. Were it scripted, producers might need called his death too saccharine a scene to be plausible. The Rev. John Anders, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Praha, notified the Schulenberg Sticker of a plea from Lev as he lay mortally wounded. Anders had acquired a letter from a soldier who had been next to the Praha man. Lev immediately took a bullet within the stomach from a Japanese sniper and went down, doomed to slowly bleed to dying after surviving the island’s fiercest battle.
The narrative of the letter to Anders claimed Lev begged his comrade to write dwelling to his parents in regards to the disposition of his will. In New Guinea – before transport out for the front — Lev had been emotionally overwhelmed by the work of the Divine Phrase Missionaries, who had been serving the native children. In his closing breath, Lev dictated to the soldier that his life’s savings be sent to the new Guinea missionaries. On Feb. 15, 1945, Divine Word Missionaries acquired a check for $4,204.Eleven from a Praha boy, who died in the tropical sands not far from the place the missionaries served.
Dying in combat, of course, is rarely glorious. Unintended, nearly meaningless casualties might be much more painful. Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sbrusch of Praha had heard their son, Eddie, had been taken as a prisoner of conflict in Luzon. In uniform, photographed before going overseas, Pvt. Sbrusch had a head of curly, disorganized hair offset by almost pointed ears. His face made him appear diminutive, but his wide smile showed him keen and his eyes prepared.
On Sept. 7, 1944, the Japanese had been moving POWs from the Philippines to an unknown location when a U.S. vessel attacked the transport carrying the flag of the rising solar. American commanders, unaware their very own males had been in the hold of the Japanese ship, launched a torpedo and sank the transport. Japanese authorities later reported 750 Individuals had been aboard. Pvt. Sbrusch’s stays have been never recovered. The Flatonia Argus wrote that his mother and father, two brothers and one sister survived him.
The boys of Praha dwell now solely as fading reminiscences and sepia-toned photographs. A small sheet of paper posted on the western wall of their Praha church displays all their portraits. In the sanctuary the place they sat via Mass and Sunday sermons as boys, the display gets no extra attention than may a gaggle picture of an area championship baseball group. On the church grounds, however, three separate prayer chapels have been built of their honor.
In his image, Lev’s service cap is cocked to the aspect of his head to suggest indifference, however his delicate, boyish options give him away as delicate and mental. Jerry Vaculik and Anton Kresta appear thoughtful, while Eddie Marek is joyful and dimpled. Wanting on the expectant grin of Rudolph Barta, anybody may assume he lived a wholesome and financially rewarding life, which must be simply concluding with the laughter of grandchildren at his toes.
Behind the church at the gated entry to the cemetery, a memorial stands to honor the lost sons of Praha. Names and images are arranged in an ideal row alongside the underside of the marble pedestal. Dates and areas of their deaths are carved into the stone. Nobody can easily enter the cemetery without first confronting the rock monument and pondering the wives and kids these men never knew, the work they never lived to carry out, the desires they never pursued.
Not like Veterans Day, on most days of the 12 months no one is present to study the stories of those men. Visitors spot the light flag over Eddie Marek’s headstone and the vase of plastic buttercups, tipped on its side where Anton Kresta lies. On both aspect of the graveyard fence, the land lowers simply into a inexperienced world the place issues are rising and people are living another season in freedom.
Nothing ever adjustments right here till the Sunday morning earlier than Veterans Day when U.S. military servicemen and women from across the nation gather to hearken to speeches, which by no means come near explaining this loss. Their minds are forced to simplify the tragedy of Praha. Vintage aircraft fly overhead; one peels off into the missing man formation, and flowers are dropped, settling like a unhappy rain throughout the cemetery. The tears fall faster.
If they had been to look in a Fayette County cellphone e book earlier than returning residence, visitors to Praha might recognize a couple of surnames. Largely, though, the relations of the 9 misplaced boys of Praha have spread out, moved away and lived out their time in quiet anonymity. Their lineages are disappearing while warfare survives.
Earlier than he died, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavides of nearby El Campo, Texas, instructed a Veterans Day crowd at Praha that “folks have to learn about this place. They want to hear about what happened. They want to know.”
Understanding could show eternally inconceivable. But when each leader of every country were first made to go to Praha before declaring warfare, the world may be endlessly modified.
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