In Memoriam: The Boys Of Praha
It gave you a part in something that you might consider in wholly and utterly and wherein you felt an absolute brotherhood with the others who have been engaged Frost in it. It was something that you simply had never recognized earlier than but that you just had skilled now and also you gave such significance to it and the explanations for it that your own dying seemed of full unimportance; only a factor to be prevented because it could interfere with the efficiency of your duty.”
Ernest Hemingway – For Whom the Bell Tolls
They now not exist. And even within the Texas farm nation the place they were boys, their names are slipping from reminiscence. Individuals who live among the many inexperienced hills listed here are hardly more likely to learn about Praha’s loss than the strangers who journey the darkish farm-to-market roads of their pickups and minivans, taking scenic detours on their solution to Houston or San Antonio. This is comprehensible. Being informed the factual historical past doesn’t make the reality about Praha more believable. A visit, nonetheless, to the church and cemetery at Praha will leave the customer carrying away a distinctly American heartache.
The few thousand visitors touring to Praha for Veterans Day ceremonies strategy 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. Freeway ninety, directly at the Church of St. Mary’s Assumption. Near the cemetery, the pavement curls again deferentially to the west and infrequent visitors passes quietly, the distant hiss of wheels on asphalt insufficient to disturb the serenity of a spot many U.S. navy veterans have come to view as nearly holy.
Praha provides old soldiers a measurement of sorts for ideas like the value of freedom. There’s, although, something incalculable, not possible to evaluate and even perceive, concerning the sad historical past of Praha. Right this moment, it is little greater than a ghost of a town with only about two dozen residents. The brand new Handbook of Texas claims the population never surpassed a hundred individuals during the 20th century. These numbers are the place the anguish begins in Praha’s tearful fact.
After Veterans Day ceremonies conclude, the curious and the proud stand in front of the nine graves. There, they try to grasp how conflict’s bloody arm may attain this far, gather up this much life and destroy it. By the dates on their tombstones and the locales of the deaths, the Allied offensive in opposition to the Nazis, Mussolini and the Japanese is recorded within the destinies of those nine fallen farm boys. Little Praha was not protected from World Conflict 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 Conflict Division sent notices of dying to the families 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 war two days after Christmas 1944. Pvt. Joseph Lev, shot within the stomach during the assault 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.
In 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 troopers are buried within the Praha cemetery in two rows of four and three; Eddie Sbrusch’s empty grave lies just to the northeast; George Pavlicek’s stays rest in a household plot throughout the stroll. 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-outdated put up oak tree reaches out with a promise of eventual shade.
These males are remembered, however not extensively, and they are honored by identify each Veterans Day. The loss to their households, nevertheless, and to the parish of Praha, is barely acknowledged by Cheap Stone Island history. The commonality of their sacrifice, it has been argued, is what made it so highly effective and gave America a source of righteousness. Veterans who collect, on the Praha church grounds each Nov. 11 inform bystanders, “With out places like Praha, there would be no place like the United States.” However what conflict did to Praha nonetheless hurts. And it always will. Finally, the town itself — mortally wounded by circumstance — grew to become a casualty.
When the route alignment of the Southern Pacific Railroad situated the tracks a few mile north, Praha’s population and financial system had been drawn away to the prospects of a rail line. A town named Flatonia, just over the rise from the Praha Catholic Church, became an agricultural crossroads and a cease on the Southern Pacific route. Cash and business left Praha to grow with Flatonia. Praha was by no means to develop into much grander than a small country parish with farm and ranch households settled on acreages across the gothic church structure.
On the outset of World Struggle II, Flatonia and Praha were no completely different than many other rural communities throughout the American landscape. Patriotic fervor led people to gather scrap steel and rubber, delivering the materials additional east on the rail line to the larger town of Schulenberg. Younger men have been coming in from the countryside to enlist and say their goodbyes earlier than leaving for boot camp and deployment overseas. To call it a less complicated time, although, is to belittle the emotional and mental complexity concerned in the decision to serve. Even alongside the dirt roads of Fayette County, Texas, households understood that Hitler and Japan represented greater than just a menace to Europe and the Pacific.
Nonetheless, nobody was able to ignore the patriotic enthusiasm that followed the boys through their army careers. As they went away for coaching and duty, tales about them began to appear on the entrance pages of the native newspapers. The Flatonia Argus ran pictures and headlines of hometown troopers every time they were promoted in rank or had been dispatched to an important battle. Letters written dwelling from the front or from primary coaching were usually printed on the front page of The Schulenberg Sticker. Caught up in the nationwide 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-page ad urging residents to purchase more battle bonds. The message, with its stirring illustration, must have undone every conscience in a five-county region. The drawing within 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 this time. What did you do “
In Praha, they started to undergo. A discover of the community’s first casualty was delivered in March 1944. Instead of a daring headline and a photograph, The Flatonia Argus reported the death with a number of matter-of-truth strains of copy in its March sixteen, 1944, version.
“The Conflict Department has notified Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bohuslav that their son, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav, was killed in action in Northern Africa. Companies had been held in St. Mary’s church in Praha this previous Sunday. Bohuslav died in Africa on stone island jumper with badge on chest Feb. 3, 1944. In addition to 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 suppose about him and pray for him,” said Herman Bohuslav of Corpus Christi. “He was my large brother and he was everything to me. I can still see the two men 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 in a position to believe it had happened. I just saved believing my brother would come residence.”
At age seventy four, Herman Bohuslav has enjoyed the total life that warfare robbed from his brother. He settled on the Texas coast together with his spouse, opened a grocery store and gasoline station, and raised five children who have supplied him with sixteen grandchildren. Bohuslav, nonetheless, has neither bitterness nor anger over his brother’s fate.
“I am sure what he did, he did for us,” Bohuslav stated. “I mean, there were some evil individuals on the earth back then, you already know. And something had to be completed. My brother was part of what needed to be finished.”
A scan of subsequent editions of the Flatonia publication provides no additional information of how Pfc. Bohuslav encountered his destiny. No reportage is current to point the battlefield or his mission in Africa. The main points of the end 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 easily accessed. Beyond the fence line of the Praha cemetery, Pfc. Robert Bohuslav is hardly greater than a statistic.
To his family, however, he is the one who missed all the years with youngsters and travel and vacations and holidays. He might have lived to 90, as did his father, or to his mid-80s, like his brother and sister. Bohuslavs are given to longevity. The personal’s oldest sister is eighty five and his eldest brother is 83. Instead of working the farm, although, Pfc. Bohuslav commanded a bazooka, won two Purple Hearts and died on international soil.
The general public was told barely more about Pfc. Joseph Lev of Praha. Because the U.S. began an offensive towards the Japanese, Lev was part of the bottom assault at Luzon Island. The announcement of his death was published within 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 action in July 1944. Apparently, the Lev household had too many children for the paper to record their names, and the 2 brief 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 type than articles of lesser consequence, corresponding to “Garden Membership to meet 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. Have been it scripted, producers might have known as his dying 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 suddenly took a bullet in 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 down home 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 last 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 obtained a verify for $4,204.11 from a Praha boy, who died in the tropical sands not far from where the missionaries stone island jumper with badge on chest served.
Demise in combat, after all, isn’t glorious. Accidental, nearly 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 struggle 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 seem diminutive, however his broad smile confirmed him keen and his eyes ready.
On Sept. 7, 1944, the Japanese had been transferring 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 were in the hold of the Japanese ship, launched a torpedo and sank the transport. Japanese authorities later reported 750 Individuals were aboard. Pvt. Sbrusch’s stays have been never recovered. The Flatonia Argus wrote that his dad and mom, two brothers and one sister survived him.
The boys of Praha live now solely as fading reminiscences 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 means of Mass and Sunday sermons as boys, the show will get no more consideration than would possibly a group photo of a local championship baseball crew. On the church grounds, however, three separate prayer chapels have been constructed of their honor.
In his image, Lev’s service cap is cocked to the side of his head to counsel indifference, however his comfortable, boyish features give him away as delicate and intellectual. Jerry Vaculik and Anton Kresta seem considerate, while Eddie Marek is glad and dimpled. Trying at the expectant grin of Rudolph Barta, anyone may assume he lived a healthy and financially rewarding life, which must be simply concluding with the laughter of grandchildren at his ft.
Behind the church at 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 places of their deaths are carved into the stone. Nobody can easily enter the cemetery with out first confronting the rock monument and pondering the wives and kids these men never knew, the work they by no means lived to carry out, the desires they by no means pursued.
Not like Veterans Day, on most days of the yr nobody is current to be taught the tales of those men. Visitors spot the faded flag over Eddie Marek’s headstone and the vase of plastic buttercups, tipped on its side where Anton Kresta lies. On both facet of the graveyard fence, the land lowers easily right into a inexperienced world the place issues are growing and individuals are living another season in freedom.
Nothing ever changes right here till the Sunday morning earlier than Veterans Day when U.S. army servicemen and women from across the nation gather to listen to speeches, which by no means come close to explaining this loss. Their minds are compelled to simplify the tragedy of Praha. Vintage aircraft fly overhead; one peels off into the lacking man formation, and flowers are dropped, settling like a unhappy rain across the cemetery. The tears fall faster.
In the event that they were to look in a Fayette County phone book earlier than returning residence, guests to Praha may recognize a few surnames. Largely, although, the family members of the 9 lost boys of Praha have spread out, moved away and lived out their time in quiet anonymity. Their lineages are disappearing whereas war survives.
Before he died, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient Roy Benavides of nearby El Campo, Texas, informed a Veterans Day crowd at Praha that “people need to learn about this place. They want to listen to about what occurred. They want to know.”
Understanding may show eternally unattainable. But when every chief of each nation have been first made to visit Praha earlier than declaring struggle, the world is perhaps eternally changed.
Observe James Moore on Twitter: www.twitter.com/moorethink
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