Year after year, dissident Catholics and radical leftists stage a propaganda protest at the gates of Fort Benning against the U.S. Army’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation – the former School of the Americas. While anti-military protesters enjoy ample media coverage, little notice is given to thousands of patriotic Americans who honor the troops, only blocks away, during God Bless Fort Benning Day. The event deserves attention.
Rosary for the Troops
After a 17-hour road trip from Pennsylvania to Georgia and two flat tires on the way, TFP Student Action members were exhausted yet unwilling to rest: “that’s not what we came down here for.” It was a brisk Friday afternoon as we stood on Broadway and 13th Street, a busy intersection downtown Columbus to pray a public Rosary for the troops.
The oak studded median on Broadway offered a perfect location to pray for the troops in the open air. So we surrounded the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, escorted by two members wearing the ceremonial habit of the TFP; others held the American flag, the TFP banner, signs and posters.
Overwhelming Support for the Troops
Our signs read: “Rosary for the troops,” “God Bless America,” and “Honk to support the troops!” The overwhelming majority of vehicles passing by were overjoyed. Drivers would see our signs, smile and immediately start honking. We estimated getting 5,400 honks in three hours, because cars honked every two seconds at a steady rate. Drivers with broken horns found other ways to express their support, giving thumbs up, clapping or waving or yelling “yeeehaaa!”
Not wanting to be left out, a man crossing the intersection in a motorized wheel chair repeatedly honked his small electronic horn. From every corner, the intersection was alive with honks and cheers of support and gratitude for the troops who serve our country. At the same time, bystanders were disgusted by the anti-military display that clogs the entrance to Fort Benning every November.
“Would you fellows like something to drink?” asked a gentleman who then delivered loads of refreshments for us.
God Bless Fort Benning Day
Columbus residents appreciate the military tradition of sacrifice, discipline, duty, risk and selfless heroism, and God Bless Fort Benning Day is an event that expresses the gratitude of countless Americans for that noble institution. It is a wonderful reaction against the SOA Watch protest. This year the event unfolded on Broadway on November 17, attracting over 20,000 patriotic Americans, far outnumbering the demonstrators at the grim SOA Watch protest nearby.
Thousands of soldiers and officers in uniform joined the rally and were treated to a free pancake breakfast offered by volunteers. On stage, Dr. and Mrs. Jack Tidwell, founders of God Bless Fort Benning addressed the crowd, followed by Major General Walter Wojdakowski, Commanding General of Fort Benning. Other activities and speakers continued throughout the day.
A team of Army Rangers entertained onlookers, demonstrating hand-to-hand martial arts combat techniques.
Hard-hitting Ad Makes Ripples
That same day, The Columbus Ledger-Inquirer printed a full-page ad of the TFP: To the SOA Watch Protesters: Be Consistent! To the Military: Be Proud! The statement highlights how leftist Catholic protesters misrepresent true Catholics and exposes the errors of “liberation theology.”
Standing on the sidewalk with our visible banners allowed people to find us and chat about the TFP ad. “Thank you. I saw it the newspaper this morning. My husband liked it so much, he cut it out,” said one lady. Others added: “From one fellow Catholic to another, thank you for publishing that statement,” and “Give me a stack of those flyers. I’ll spread the news around town.” “Your publication says what hasn’t been said, and what needed to be said. A lot of people are talking about your ad,” said another. “I really appreciate it.”
In fact, a vendor selling The Columbus Ledger-Inquirer to SOA Watch protesters, folded the newspaper to the page on which the TFP statement appeared to encourage more sales: “Buy the newspaper – they’re going fast.”
Gloomy Protesters Debate
It was easy to spot SOA protesters by their gloomy faces or garish hippie attire. Several stopped by our banner to debate. Logic was sparse. For example, one SOA protester said: “I disagree with you [TFP], but you are using logic.”
Moments later, a self-avowed communist approached TFP member John Miller, saying: “If you support the troops, you support sponsors of terrorism.” After John Miller calmly refuted the claim, the woman departed, shouting a communist slogan: “Viva la Revolucion!” to which John Miller replied, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King).
“Why do you tell protesters to be consistent?” asked two angry individuals. “Because many protesters claim to be Catholics in good standing yet subscribe to Marxist liberation theology, which is condemned by the Church,” replied a TFP representative. The two women rolled their eyes and walked away in silence.
May God Keep America Strong
God Bless Fort Benning Day is a refreshing event that opposes mediocrity. It is an event where over 20,000 patriotic Americans gather to honor the officers and soldiers who heroically place their lives at risk to maintain peace and order. At a time when the very concept of good and evil is muddled, the event affirms that good should be defended and evil rejected.
May God bless our troops, keep our nation strong and guide all those who defend the values of Western Christian civilization.