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Celebrating an American Original
by Shawn Black [pundit] 6/10/06

Every 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 part of not only our family, but America as well.

On June 11, 1979, America mourned the passing of John Wayne.

The life 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.

Shawn Black

Shawn 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.

During the 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 Land.

And that’s why for over twenty five years, the Duke has remained on the top ten lists of popular actors. Nobody has even come close.

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.

When America 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.

During World War II and the Cold War, John Wayne joined forces with Ronald Reagan. 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 style.

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.

Becoming 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 Services.

The Duke took us from boys to men.

Four generations of our own military family experienced no greater joy during basic 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.

She simply said, “There’s not much more I can say, than I have already said in the past… He was John Wayne – American.” CRO

copyright 2006 by Shawn Black





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