Czechs brave bad weather to welcome US armed forces

Many residents in Nachod, Czech Republic, gathered at the Poland-Czech border to greet a convoy of American soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment as the unit wound up its show-of-support mission in eastern Europe, Sunday, March 29, 2015. MICHAEL S. DARNELL/STARS AND STRIPES

NACHOD, Czech Republic — More than 2,000 people lined the streets of this small border town on Sunday to greet American soldiers as they crossed into the Czech Republic from Poland on their way home from an operation to demonstrate support for eastern allies rattled by Russian aggression in Ukraine.

This border crossing marked the beginning of the final stage of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s Dragoon Ride, a show-of-force convoy operation that began nine days ago. Since then, soldiers maneuvered 120 military vehicles across Lithuania, Estonia and Poland as they wound their way back to their home base in Vilseck, Germany.

Though well-received by other host nations, the convoy unleashed fierce debate among the Czech people and politicians. On Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Prague, the capital, to demonstrate support for and opposition to the convoy and American foreign policy.

Vehement opposition from some quarters — most prominently members of the Czech Communist Party — raised concern among the Dragoons about the kind of welcome they would receive at the Czech border. On Sunday, those concerns proved to be unfounded, as thousands of Czechs braved rain and wind for several hours to greet the American troops…

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