Walk For World Peace - 2004

   5th Annual Peace Pilgrimage
Atlanta to Fort Benning, GA
November 13-21, 2004

   The Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii engaged in the practice of a walking Peace Pilgrimage as one way to cultivate compassion and to defeat the forces that lead to war, In this spirit the Buddhist monks of Nipponzan Myohoji-Atlanta Dojo initiated an annual Peace Walk to the School of Americas(now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) in 1999 to support the mass movement to CLOSE THE SOA. The SOA, a school for Latin American officers run by the U.S. Army, is internationally notorious for training assassins, torturers, and human rights abusers. We cannot live at peace with our neighbors to the south so long as this school exists. Nor can we live at peace in this world so long as our society requires world economic domination to sustain itself. Step by step we seek to move toward a social life that never allows for murder, destruction or exploitation to sustain itself.
     Friday, November 12th, 2004 - Arrival. Jim and I drove from Peace Hostel Amelia to the Atlanta Dojo Friday afternoon and arrived in time to be with the group for supper. It was great seeing everyone again and to renew the spirit of the walk with our old walking and running mates.  
     Saturday, Nov. 13 - Atlanta Dojo to College Park, via the King Center, 12 miles. It was a splendid day for a walk. It was a little overcast but not to cold or hot. After morning prayers and breakfast we took to the streets. As you can see in the picture this was one of the largest groups of walkers we ever started with. About half were day walkers and some just walked to the King Center but all were welcome and appreciated.  
     Visiting the King Center is always an emotional experience as this was no exception. I always think of "what if" Dr. King had not been taken away from us what the world would be like. The same could be said for Jesus, Ghandi and may others as well. I can't help but pray that someday Dr. King's "dream" will be a reality and if it is left up to us walkers it will be! Anyhow, after an dramatic circle we were once again off on our mission of peace and arrived at Hanna and Laura's house. These young ladies and their friends are very special people and their hospitality is enormous. We thank them not only for their hosting but their participation in our walk and other peace events as well.  
     Sunday, Nov. 14-Riverdale to Peachtree City, 17 miles. Everyone was still fresh from yesterday's activities and ready to go. This was a strong group of walkers whose presense was felt by those who were passed by. The drumming and prayers were strong and the day was just beautiful. We made it to Peacetree City which was a bit unusual since all the roads are lined with a walking/driving path and almost everywhere you see golf carts in people's garages. Instead of driving the car they take the golf cart which seems to me to be much better for Mother Earth. There is special parking for these carts as well. Our overnight hosts were Ron and Charlene Chandonia. Their friends brought all the food and goodies we could ever want. They are all members of Pax Christi and I mean to tell you that these people are the true Christians of this world and are a shining example of love for peace, justice and their fellow human beings. I was proud to have met them. Young Walker Hammon and I camped out back and during the course of the evening Walker shared his smudge ceremony with me. The cleansing with the sage is performed every circle with my local running group and it was nice to have this ceremony on this walk.

  As I sat in the living room just taking it all in I was once again inspired by the people around me. Here we were in the middle of Georgia at a Catholic house with all the Pax Christi folks around us. Of course the Buddhist's were represented as well as other faiths. A cross section of humanity, African, Caucasion, Asia, young, old, different in so many ways. Japan, Austrailia, Cape Verde, Canada, the US! Yet something brought us together and that something was and is love for each other and all other living creatures on this Earth. Love, the most powerful force on Earth and we had found it! The young folks had some guitars and were playing and singing and I just had a great time taking it all in. I just pray that someday that the whole of the world can experience this because it is the closest thing to heaven I can imagine.
     Monday, Nov. 15" Peachtree City to Newnan, 15 miles. Another beautiful day for this walk. The end of this day found us at the St. George Catholic Church in Newnan. This is at least the third year in a row that these folks have hosted us overnight. It is a very nice place to stay. The serenity of the chapel and the grounds provide a perfect setting for thoughts and prayers about the purpose of our mission. Just before supper we gathered with our hosts and introduced ourselves. Father Austin Fogarty from Dublin blessed us and said a prayer before we ate dinner provided by the parish members. These wonderful folks also provided every walker with a mattress and covers as well as some personal articles such as soap and tooth paste. After dinner many of the walkers showered and hit the sack. Nat stayed up strumming the guitar and singing some ballads. As for myself I headed for the chapel for some reflection and after a cup of coffee and a few smokes I crawled in the back of the Trooper and went to sleep.  
     Tuesday, Nov. 16 - Newnan to Hogansville, 19 miles. We woke up this day to find ice covering all the windows and boy was it cold. So cold that Brother Ishibashi dashed into one of the vehicles before I could get him in the group picture but he didn't escape because I got him anyway. In spite of the cold it was a good day to walk. At least it was dry. Mary Beth Gamba joined us today. May Beth is from Bingingham New York and it is at least her third straight year for this walk. It was good to have her strength and spirit aboard! Marcus, Megu and I drove the support vehicles to Hogansville but we couldn't get up to the house because a train was blocking the road and there was no way around. We finally made it but were late getting back to the group. Other that that it was a good strong walk. Once again we were blessed with a wonderful place to overnight. David and Kathy Barnes were our hosts. Their old yellow house has a great deal of historical significance to the Hogansville area. The house and grounds were just magnificant. David and Kathy also house quit a few "kitty people" who would otherwise be homeless and they also have a bird santuary of sorts. The food and hospitality was just great and I hope we return to their house again in the future.  
     Wednesday, Nov. 17 - Hogansville to LaGrange, 16 miles. Everyone was in great spirits this morning having had such marvelous food and conversation at the Barnes's house as well as being on the down hill side of the walk to Ft. Benning. We were headed to LaGrange and we had been there before so we knew we could expect a lot of support and great hospitality. We were not disappointed. Dean and JoAnne Rogers hosted us overnight and had just everything we could possibly need. Great food and drink, computers, internet access, beds, etc. We were invited to their local chuch for a cover dish supper which was splendid and were shown some videos concerning the SOA. Tuka did however, manage to get lost walking back from the church and was a couple hours late getting to bed. No one missed him so he had to find his own way back. Outside of a short nap instead of a nights sleep Tuka was fine. Peacemaker Ray Hearne from Ashville North Carolina arrived this evening to join the walk. Ray has been on many peace walks and so our group was again strengthened by her cheerful presense.  
     Thursday, Nov. 18th LaGrange to West Point, 16 miles. We started the day with around 10 day walkers. Dean and JoAnne's children and a bunch of their friends walked about half way with us before their parents picked them up. It's good to have the youngsters with us and it gives up all hope for the future to see these young people take part for peace. This was our last full walking day and took us just inside the Columbus city limits. We then transported to Jim Allen and Judy Cumbee's Center for Sustainable Culture called Vine & Fig Tree. Jim and Judy have been hosting runners and walkers for years and it is always a great pleasure to visit with them and share their loving spirit.

  Sometime in the wee hours of the morning the runners from FootPrints For Peace arrived. These guys and gals had organized and run in solidarity with Utsumi and Denise such that we would be running from the Crisp County jail, South to North, to Ft Benning at the same the walkers were on the road coming North to South, and all meeting at Ft Benning for the protest. It was starting to get exciting with so many Peacemakers assembled.
     Friday, Nov. 19 - Walk through the city of Columbus, 12 miles. The last day of walking had finally arrived. The runners and walkers gathered outside Vine & Fig Tree for a group picture and then split up and went their separate ways. The runners to Crisp County, the walkers to the Columbus city limits. Of course our luck did not hold out and we had a deluge of rain toward the end of the walk but what the heck, it was the only rain we had and it was the last day. A special treat for the walkers was given by Chuck Madansky and Mary Beth Gamba who paid for a bunch of motel rooms for the wet and tired walkers. Alas I had to say goodby and joined my running mates South of Columbus so that I could run with them the next day.

  My spiritual gas tank was overflowing by the end of this walk. I had been with old friends with whom I had shared the brotherhood of the walkers and runners many times before. I also made a number of new friends, more like family, whose presense in the cause of peace and justice continues to inspire me to keep walking and running and telling the world that SOMEONE CARES!!! From the depths of my heart and soul I thank you all. Blessed Are The PeaceMakers!


Bob Watkins
Chuck Madansky
Erin Attkisson
Jim Toren
Jiro Izuhara
John Toren
Judy Kugler
Llora Kressmann
Lynn McClintock
Marcus Atkinson
Mary Beth Gamba
Megumi Kobayashi
Michizo Matsuzaki
Ray Hearne
Takashige Arai
Tom Kisielewski
Walker Hammon

FootPrints For Peace