Written by Todd DePastino

Veterans from multiple countries along a river in Karlovac, Croatia

When it comes to cities in Croatia, you might be able to name medieval Dbrovnik, the capital Zagreb, or perhaps the seaside resort of Split.

But I bet you haven’t heard of Karlovac. That’s where 15 of us with the Veterans Breakfast Club are heading to for a week of tours, commemorations, and meetings with fellow veterans of some NATO countries.

Karlovac is a fortress city built from the ground up by the Austrians in 1579 to defend against invasion from the Ottoman Empire. The six-pointed star-shaped fort worked in repelling seven Ottoman onslaughts, earning Karlovac a special place in Croatian lore as a bulwark against enemy occupation.

The Croatian War of Independence from 1991–1995 thrust Karlovac into the spotlight again, as it stood on the frontlines of Croatia’s fight against Serbian separatists wishing to reunify with Serb-led Yugoslavia. The resulting battles destroyed much of the town.

Today, almost 30 years after the end of the war, Karlovac is home to the nation’s foremost military history museums and several veteran organizations, including the 110th Brigade Association, which work with the city to hold national veteran events and commemorations.

This year, the 110th Brigade Association hit on the idea of inviting US veterans to its special Veterans Week at the end of June.

Charlie Warner, US Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) veteran of the Iraq War, contacted the VBC to see if we’d be interested in sending a delegation.

Charlie is a research fellow in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Leuven in Belgium. His doctoral research in Veterans Studies and Strategic Peacebuilding took him to

Croatia and Bosnia, where he met Slaven Vujnovic, a 110th Brigade veteran who asked Charlie to helped plan the Veterans Week activities this year.

Charlie and Slaven’s generous offer, supported by the city of Karlovac, to host 15 members of the Veterans Breakfast Club, veterans and spouses, struck me as a unique opportunity to connect with veterans from outside the US.

I contacted veterans who had traveled abroad with the VBC before and still had active passports and, to my surprise, all but one jumped at the chance to be part of the delegation.

So, off we go, on June 24 to Karlovac by way of JFK and Amsterdam and Zagreb for a week in a place that is a cornerstone of memory and education for Croatians.

 We’ll tour the fortress and Homeland War Museum, take in presentations on Croatian history, participate in remembrance ceremonies, and enjoy a day of floating on one (or more) of Karlovac’s four rivers.

Karlovac’s annual river float trip and BBQ is known to be one of the most important commemorations and gathering of veterans in the nation.

We’re honored to be included in this special week of activities and looking forward to some side-excursions to a distillery and winery, as well as a folk festival and concert that includes Croatia’s premier Elvis impersonator.

We’ll report on the trip from the road and will follow up on how everything went when we return.

Wishing us all Sretan put!