It was the annual rally and vigil outside the gates of Fort Benning, to call for the closure of the School of the Americas. That facility trains military officers from Latin America, and some of the graduates have been linked to atrocities in their home countries.
Inbetween programs on Saturday I just happened to stop back at our hotel, a basic Howard Johnsons, and when I stepped outside the door to connect with a co-worker, there she was talking with Martin Sheen in the parking lot. She got back to doing something in our rental car and I ended up talking with the actor one-on-one for several minutes in the parking lot. I said I had seen his most recent movie, The Way, just the other day and enjoyed it very much. And we talked about another protest I had been at with him and he fretted about finding the right time for the late-afternoon Mass at a nearby church. (He’s a devout Catholic.)
I was so excited that I was bubbling over and announced it to all the Sisters of Mercy I was with when we met just a few minutes later, and then called my friend Tim to tell him about it.
The next morning Martin Sheen was at the free continental breakfast at the hotel and just sitting with people and talking. I joined in the group conversaton and later got a photo of myself with him, as did many other people there.
At the solemn procession outside the gates where hundreds of names are called out, the names of people killed by SOA graduates, he gave a booming actor-like spech and was among those leading the slow walk up to the gates of the facility.
It certainly added a new dimension to the experience.