an American Original
June, just after Memorial Day rememberances and television
broadcasts of The
Longest Day, I am reminded by the life and death of a
man who became an Integral
On June 11,
1979, America mourned the passing of John Wayne.
and legacy of John Wayne, continues to take center stage in
the lives and hearts of Americans everywhere. Millions of veterans,
volunteers and families continue to demonstrate the Duke’s
example of strength, courage and quiet dignity.
Black is a Military Veteran with the 82nd Airborne
Division and Former Federal Agent with the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security. He is a Republican
speaker, supporter and consultant. He recently returned from Service in Iraq
and is founder of www.projectprayerflag.org .
[go to Black index]
A child of
Irish Immigrants, he understood hard work, maintained expansive
hope and dreamed
big dreams. He went from throwing
newspapers as a boy to throwing a football for USC on an athletic
scholarship – until a shoulder injury dashed that dream.
Then he did something ordinary and hard working Americans did
in that era: he dusted himself off and got back on his horse.
nation’s Great Depression, he found work in
the “B” side of Hollywood. He labored hard as a hired
laborer and then prop man for the film studios. His dedication
to a dream became a nation’s destiny when he caught
the eye of director John Ford who hammered, chiseled, and polished
this American original.
Wayne realized that his American characters and their importance
were as big and wide as Monument Valley. His roles were shaped
by his personal values and became an integral part of his life.
And along the way, they became a part of the American canvas.
From his roles as and cavalry leader Captain Nathan Brittles
and Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke, The Duke became a symbol of American
steel and stalwart service.
The Duke’s legacy and his portrayal of American virtues
were recognized throughout the World. From Nikita Kruschev to
Emperor Hirohito, they quickly discovered that John Wayne’s
America was all that he portrayed her to be and indeed the Promised
why for over twenty five years, the Duke has remained on the
top ten lists of popular actors. Nobody has even
They never will.
It was the
football injury that dashed the Duke’s dream
of Annapolis and serving in the Navy. Once again, he turned disappoint
into devoted duty. He accepted his calling and enlisted in our
nation’s service in what would become a life long dedication
to America’s military.
needed him the most he proudly served as “America’s
Ambassador” and best known advocate. He poured himself
into roles that exemplified America’s strength, and commitment
to defeating the country’s enemies at home and abroad.
War II and the Cold War, John Wayne joined forces with Ronald
They boldly spoke out against the scourge
of Communism that had infiltrated Hollywood and the nation’s
college campuses. The Duke wasn’t interested in U.N. photo
shoots, or using the film industry to undermine morals or family
values. The Duke believed in American substance, not liberal
If only Hollywood would take a lesson from the Duke today.
He was a
man who didn’t
draw media attention to himself for midnight hospital visits
with children suffering with cancer
or for flying into a Vietnamese war zone to rally American troops.
He loved America and America loved him.
little “Sgt. Strikers” from the Sands of
Iwo Jima, generations of kids played “John Wayne” and
as grown men were inspired by his Americanism to join the Armed
The Duke took us from boys to men.
of our own military family experienced no greater joy during
training than foraging through Army C-rations
in hope of discovering a “John Wayne” bar consisting
of a chocolate and toffee confection.
America learned from John Wayne how to be patriotic even as
patriotism fell out of fashion.
Perhaps in this time of moral ambiguity – when everything
that is right is attacked as being wrong – we could use
the wit and wisdom of Rooster Cogburn.
Today, America is rediscovering the Duke as we watch and reflect
on his beloved role in shaping the heart and character of service.
In his closing
years, someone asked the Duke how he wanted to be remembered.
He said…”Feo, Fuerte y Formal” A
Spanish proverb meaning “He was ugly, strong and had dignity”
At a recent event, I asked the Duke’s beautiful co-star,
Maureen O’Hara, if she had any thoughts on her long friendship
with John Wayne.
said, “There’s not much more I can say,
than I have already said in the past… He was John Wayne – American.” CRO
2006 by Shawn Black