August 26, 2010

Have you ever wondered if they remember America's sacrifice in WWII?

Story and photos by Doug LaViolette

I might have discovered the answer in a small town in the Czech Republic

I recently had the privilege of attending the Liberation Celebration of the City of Pilsen in the Czech Republic. May 6th, 2010 marked the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Pilsen by General George Patton's 3rd Army.

My good friend Bob Nueske, was relentless in making sure I experienced what he had a couple years ago. We both had served in the United States Army back in the late 60's, and not far from this city.

This trip was life changing for me in so many ways, the events of May 1-9 touched me so deeply I wanted to share the following snapshots I took to explain why. Why Pilsen and why every American should visit this city. Because.....

They love America and the American Soldier...


















even 65 years later...









the citizens of Pilsen came to say thank you..















lining the streets of Pilsen for miles..... 












From large crowds...
To quiet reflective moments..


















Including this American family's private time to honor and remember their American hero.


















This is the crash site of Lt. Virgil P. Kirkham, the last recorded American USAAF pilot killed in Europe during WWII. It was Lt. Kirkham's 82nd mission and one that he volunteered to go on.

At the time this 20 year old pilot's P-47 Thunderbolt plane was shot down, a young 14 year old Czech girl, Zdenka Sladkova, was so moved by his sacrifice she made a vow to care for him and his memory.

For 65 straight years , Zdenka, now 79 years old, took on the responsibility to care for Virgil's crash site and memorial near her home.

On May 4th she was recognized by the Mayor of Zdenka's home town of Trhanova, Czech Republic, for her sacrifice and extraordinary effort to honor this American hero.














Another chapter in this important story.....the Czech people are teaching their children about America's sacrifice for their freedom.

American Soldiers, young and old, are the ''Rock Stars'' these children and their parents want autographs from..


















Yes, Rock Stars ! ... As they patiently waited for his autograph, the respect this little Czech boy and his father have for our troops serving today was heartwarming and inspirational.















After witnessing these magical moments Bob Nueske asked how could we not start a scholarship in Pilsen?

We're proud to announce The Brian LaViolette Foundation has established The Scholarship of Honor in tribute to General George S. Patton and the American Soldier, past and present.



















The General George S. Patton Scholarship of Honor will be awarded annually to a student who has graduated from one of the 40+ high schools in Pilsen, Czech Republic, and who has chosen to enter the military or pursue a career in public safety or community service (e.g. police, firefighting, emergency medical services, healthcare and medicine, education, social work, humanitarian work, church or religious service)

Each year, a different military hero will be honored in tribute to General Patton's memory and their mission to liberate Europe. The first award will be presented in honor of Lt. Virgil Kirkham, that young 20 year old P-47 pilot killed 65 years ago in the final days of WWII.





































Presenting Virgil's award will be someone who knows the true meaning of service and sacrifice... someone who looks a lot like Virgil...

















Marion Kirkham, Virgil's brother, who himself served during WWII in the United States Army - Air Corps. !!!

In closing... Here is what the city of Pilsen thinks of General Patton's grandson. George Patton Waters ( another Rock Star! ) we're proud to say, serves on Brian's Foundation board.
















And it's front page news.. not hidden in the middle of the social section..


















And I was lucky enough witness all of this... Doug LaViolette along with a new friend, Brigadier General Miroslav Zizka - 1st Deputy Chief of Staff - Ministry of Defense - Czech Armed Forces.


















So please join us on this amazing journey...


















Come visit Pilsen in the Czech Republic during the first part of May 2011. Bob Nueske and I have a feeling it will also be a life changing experience for you. The scholarship will be officially announced this year.  The first scholarship will be presented to a worthy recipient in 2012.

And please share this blog (and follow this continuing story at www.briansjourney.com )with your family and friends and ask them to do the same.....every American should hear this story.

2 comments:

Sixty Something said...

Doug: I received a copy of this blog via an email. I happened to be in Prague when I read the email. I have written a story about my search to find Lt. Kirkham's memorial site. If you are interested in this story, please contact me via email @ afitch@bellsouth.net.

I am a retired USMC Colonel who served as an F=4 pilot in Vietnam.

Patriot said...

This is a very hard hitting story and I am thankful to see that the sacrifices of many of our heroes from past generations did not bleed and die on a foreign battle field in vain.

Thank you for remembering the history of those who fought so hard to keep others free.

America appreciates this gesture and we take this to heart.

Thank you.

Wes Hazlett
Founder and National Director of The American Patriot Program
Grandson of a Combat Wounded WWII Veteran
thepatriotprogram@gmail.com
www.patriotprogram.us