In Memoriam: The Boys Of Praha
It gave you a component in something that you might consider in wholly and completely and during which you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who had been engaged stone island jacket compare prices in it. It was something that you just had by no means recognized earlier than but that you had skilled now and also you gave such importance to it and the reasons for it that your individual death appeared of complete unimportance; only a thing to be prevented as a result of it could interfere with the performance of your responsibility.”
Ernest Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls
They no longer exist. And even in the Texas farm nation where they had been boys, their names are slipping from memory. Individuals who dwell among the many green hills listed below are hardly more more likely to learn about Praha’s loss than the strangers who journey the dark farm-to-market roads in their pickups and minivans, taking scenic detours on their method to Houston or San Antonio. This is understandable. Being instructed the factual history does not make the reality about Praha extra believable. A trip, however, to the church and cemetery at Praha will go away the visitor carrying away a distinctly American heartache.
The few thousand guests touring 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 landscape. The blacktop of FM 1295 runs south off of U.S. Highway 90, instantly on the Church of St. Mary’s Assumption. Close to 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 almost holy.
Praha provides outdated troopers a measurement of sorts for concepts like the price of freedom. There is, although, something incalculable, unimaginable to evaluate and even understand, in regards to the sad history of Praha. Immediately, it’s little greater than a ghost of a city with only about two dozen residents. The brand new Handbook of Texas claims the inhabitants never surpassed one hundred people in the course of the 20th century. These numbers are the place the anguish begins in Praha’s tearful reality.
After Veterans Day ceremonies conclude, the curious and the proud stand in entrance of the 9 graves. There, they struggle to understand how conflict’s bloody arm may attain 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 towards the Nazis, Mussolini and the Japanese is recorded in the destinies of these nine fallen farm boys. Little Praha was not protected from World Struggle 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 fight had handed. Three extra sons of Praha went down in France, starting the week after D-Day. The War Division despatched notices of demise to the households of Pfc. Rudolph L. Barta, June 16; 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 warfare two days after Christmas 1944. Pvt. Joseph Lev, shot within 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 lost at sea in the Pacific. Nineteen days later, Pfc. Edward J. Marek died in battle at Pelelieu Island. All their lives had been lost, ironically, as an Allied victory appeared inevitable.
Within the area of 12 months and 9 days, Praha gave up most of its youth — and almost all of its future — to confront unimaginable types of evil on faraway continents.
The soldiers are buried within the Praha cemetery in two rows of four and three; Eddie Sbrusch’s empty grave lies simply to the northeast; George Pavlicek’s stays relaxation in a family plot across the walk. Veterans Day 2002 finds the tombstones marked with small fluttering flags, toppled vases of plastic flowers, and wooden posts mounted with military service shields and American Legion emblems. The graveyard is unprotected from the pressing Texas sun, however close by a centuries-previous submit oak tree reaches out with a promise of eventual shade.
These men are remembered, but not widely, and they are honored by name each Veterans Day. The loss to their households, however, and to the parish of Praha, is barely acknowledged by history. The commonality of their sacrifice, it has been argued, is what made it so powerful and gave America a supply of righteousness. Veterans who gather, on the Praha church grounds each Nov. 11 tell bystanders, “With out places like Praha, there can be no place just like the United States.” But what struggle did to Praha nonetheless hurts. And it at all times will. Finally, the town itself — mortally wounded by circumstance — became a casualty.
When the route alignment of the Southern Pacific Railroad situated the tracks about a mile north, Praha’s population and economic system were drawn away to the prospects of a rail line. A town 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. Money and enterprise left Praha to develop with Flatonia. Praha was never to become much grander than a small country parish with farm and ranch families settled on acreages around the gothic church structure.
On the outset of World Struggle II, Flatonia and Praha have been no different than many different rural communities throughout the American landscape. Patriotic fervor led folks to gather scrap metallic and rubber, delivering the supplies further east on the rail line to the larger town of Schulenberg. Young men had been coming in from the countryside to enlist and say their goodbyes before leaving for boot camp and deployment overseas. To call it a easier time, though, is to belittle the emotional and mental complexity involved in the decision to serve. Even alongside the dirt roads of Fayette County, Texas, families understood that Hitler and Japan represented greater than just a threat to Europe and the Pacific.
Nonetheless, no one was able to disregard the patriotic enthusiasm that adopted the boys through their army careers. As they went away for training and obligation, stories about them began to appear on the entrance pages of the native newspapers. The Flatonia Argus ran photographs and headlines of hometown soldiers whenever they were promoted in rank or had been dispatched to an vital battle. Letters written home from the front or from primary training have been often printed on the entrance page of The Schulenberg Sticker. Caught up in the national compulsion to sacrifice and serve, no headline was too daring nor any copy too extreme.
A 1943 edition of the weekly Flatonia paper included a full-web page advert urging residents to buy extra conflict bonds. The message, with its stirring illustration, must have undone each conscience in a five-county region. The drawing within the advert reveals a soldier with his mouth open and eyes bulging in shock. Beneath his stricken countenance, the bold typeface asks, “I died at this time. What did you do “
In Praha, they began to suffer. A discover of the community’s first casualty was delivered in March 1944. As a substitute of a bold headline and a photograph, The Flatonia Argus reported the demise with just a few matter-of-reality traces of copy in its March sixteen, 1944, version.
“The Battle Department has notified Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bohuslav that their son, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav, was killed in action in Northern Africa. Services had been held in St. Mary’s church in Praha this previous Sunday. Bohuslav died in Africa on Feb. 3, 1944. Along with his mother and father, he is survived by two brothers, Ernest Bohuslav of Halletsville and Herman Bohuslav of Praha.” The reporter didn’t point out the names of Bohuslav’s sisters.
“There is just not a Sunday in church when I do not think about him and pray for him,” said Herman Bohuslav of Corpus Christi. “He was my massive brother and he was the whole lot to me. I can nonetheless see the 2 males from the Military developing our farmyard to present the message to Momma and Daddy. It took me a number of years earlier than I used to be even capable of consider it had happened. I simply stored believing my brother would come residence.”
At age seventy four, Herman Bohuslav has enjoyed the complete life that warfare robbed from his brother. He settled on the Texas coast together with his spouse, opened a grocery retailer and fuel station, and raised five kids who have provided him with sixteen grandchildren. Bohuslav, nevertheless, has neither bitterness nor anger over his brother’s destiny.
“I am sure what he did, he did for us,” Bohuslav mentioned. “I mean, there were some evil individuals on the earth again then, you realize. And something had to be executed. My brother was a part of what wanted to be executed.”
A scan of subsequent editions of the Flatonia publication provides no further data of how Pfc. Bohuslav encountered his destiny. No reportage is current to point the battlefield or his mission in Africa. The details of the tip of Pfc. Bohuslav’s life are undoubtedly locked up in Pentagon recordsdata in Washington on a database or in a drawer where his story isn’t simply accessed. Past the fence line of the Praha cemetery, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav is hardly more than a statistic.
To his family, nonetheless, he’s the one who missed all of the years with youngsters and travel and vacations and holidays. He may need lived to 90, as did his father, or to his mid-80s, like his brother and sister. Bohuslavs are given to longevity. The non-public’s oldest sister is 85 and his eldest brother is 83. As an alternative of working the farm, though, Pfc. Bohuslav commanded a bazooka, won two Purple Hearts and died on foreign soil.
The public was instructed slightly more about Pfc. Joseph Lev of Praha. Because the U.S. began an offensive in opposition to the Japanese, Lev was a part of the ground assault at Luzon Island. The announcement of his dying was revealed in the Flatonia paper with the imminently predictable language.
“Mr. and Mrs. Emil J. Lev have been notified by the Warfare Department 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 2 quick paragraphs concluded with the knowledge that one brother and four sisters survived Lev. Argus’ headline pronouncing Lev’s loss of life was accorded no bigger sort than articles of lesser consequence, similar to “Backyard Membership 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 film. Were it scripted, producers may need referred to as his demise 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 received a letter from a soldier who had been next to the Praha man. Lev suddenly took a bullet within the stomach from a Japanese sniper and went down, doomed to slowly bleed to loss of life after surviving the island’s fiercest battle.
The narrative of the letter to Anders claimed Lev begged his comrade to write house to his parents about the disposition of his will. In New Guinea – earlier than transport out for the entrance — Lev had been emotionally overwhelmed by the work of the Divine Word Missionaries, who had been serving the native kids. In his closing breath, Lev dictated to the soldier that his life’s savings be despatched to the new Guinea missionaries. On Feb. 15, 1945, Divine Word Missionaries acquired a verify for $4,204.Eleven from a Praha boy, who died in the tropical sands not removed from the place the missionaries served.
Loss of life in fight, in fact, is rarely glorious. Unintended, almost meaningless casualties may be much more painful. Mr. and Mrs. Joe Sbrusch of Praha had heard their son, Eddie, had been taken as a prisoner of warfare in Luzon. In uniform, photographed earlier than going overseas, Pvt. Sbrusch had a head of curly, disorganized hair offset by nearly pointed ears. His face made him appear diminutive, but his extensive smile confirmed him eager and his eyes ready.
On Sept. 7, 1944, the Japanese were moving POWs from the Philippines to an unknown location when a U.S. vessel attacked the transport carrying the flag of the rising sun. American commanders, unaware their own males have been within the hold of the Japanese ship, launched a torpedo and sank the transport. Japanese authorities later reported 750 People had been aboard. Pvt. Sbrusch’s stays had been by no means recovered. The Flatonia Argus wrote that his parents, two brothers and one sister survived him.
The boys of Praha live now solely as fading recollections and sepia-toned images. A small sheet of paper posted on the western wall of their Praha church shows all their portraits. Within the sanctuary the place they sat by Mass and Sunday sermons as boys, the display will get no more consideration than might a bunch photo of a local championship baseball workforce. On the church grounds, nonetheless, three separate prayer chapels have been constructed of their honor.
In his image, Lev’s service cap is cocked to the aspect of his head to suggest indifference, but his soft, boyish options give him away as delicate and intellectual. Jerry Vaculik and Anton Kresta appear thoughtful, while Eddie Marek is glad and dimpled. Wanting at the expectant grin of Rudolph Barta, anyone might assume he lived a wholesome and financially rewarding life, which must be just concluding with the laughter of grandchildren at his feet.
Behind the church on the gated entry to the cemetery, a memorial stands to honor the misplaced sons of Praha. Names and photographs are arranged in a perfect row alongside the underside of the marble pedestal. Dates and locations of their deaths are carved into the stone. No one can easily enter the cemetery with out first confronting the rock monument and pondering the wives and children these males by no means knew, the work they by no means lived to perform, the goals they by no means pursued.
Not like Veterans Day, on most days of the year no one is present to learn the stories of these men. Visitors spot the faded flag over Eddie Marek’s headstone and the vase of plastic buttercups, tipped on its facet the place Anton Kresta lies. On both facet of the graveyard fence, the land lowers simply right into a inexperienced world the place issues are growing and people are dwelling another season in freedom.
Nothing ever adjustments right here until the Sunday morning earlier than Veterans Day when U.S. military servicemen and women from across the country collect to take heed to speeches, which by no means come close to explaining this loss. Their minds are pressured 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 sad rain across the cemetery. The tears fall sooner.
In the event that they were to look in a Fayette County phone e book earlier than returning residence, visitors to Praha may recognize a few surnames. Largely, though, the family members of the nine misplaced boys of Praha have unfold out, moved away and lived out their time in quiet anonymity. Their lineages are disappearing while war survives.
Before he died, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavides of nearby El Campo, Texas, instructed a Veterans Day crowd at Praha that “folks must find out about this place. They want to listen to about what occurred. They want to know.”
Understanding might show eternally inconceivable. But if each chief of every country have been first made to go to Praha before declaring conflict, the world is likely to be ceaselessly changed.
Comply with James Moore on Twitter: www.twitter.com/moorethink
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