In Pilsen, a city of about 200,000 in the Czech Republic, the recent celebration of its liberation from the Nazis involved U.S. veterans, as well.
Todd and Tonya Schmidt of Waunakee had a chance to mark the occasion during ceremonies throughout the day as guests of Steve King, a U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic.
At the May 16 Waunakee Rotary meeting, the Schmidts told of their experience as King’s guests at the Ambassador’s residence in Prague. For Todd Schmidt, Waunakee’s Village Administrator, the experience allowed him to participate in civic ceremonies abroad.
He got to know Steve King in Milton, where Todd served as city administrator and King was involved in the community as a business owner. King was also active with the Republican party and served as its chair.
When the Schmidts were planning their 20th anniversary trip to Prague, they touched base with King hoping to join him for dinner, but instead they received an invitation to be his guests for a few days and to accompany him to the Pilsen Liberation Festival.
While some political powers may find reason to discredit America’s role in Pilsen’s liberation, Ambassador King noted that the veterans who live to tell the story preserve the truth and the history.
U.S. veterans laid a wreath in a small ceremony to commemorate the United State’s part of the liberation in 1945.
A larger ceremony was held, as well, and Gen. Patton’s grandson participated. Todd relayed that President Roosevelt wanted to pull out of Europe prior to liberating Pilsen, but Gen. Patton insisted on the mission.
“It was so surreal. There’s so much history in the Czech Republic, but to be with Gen. Patton’s grandson was just amazing,” Tonya said.
They were surrounded by an array of veterans, ambassadors and others who were working to preserve the history of that time.
Often, American is not celebrated in other countries in such a way, Tonya said, but many men and women lost their lives trying to liberate the city.
As for Ambassador’s residence, the Schmidts described the palatial home built in the 1920s by a Jewish family that later immigrated to the United States when the Nazis came into power.
They stayed in the same quarters Paul Ryan and George W. Bush had.
Pilsen is the city where the beer, Pilsner Urquell is brewed, and beer is the beverage of choice there, they said.