Now more than ever, politics has become a contact sport and has affected every aspect of our lives, including how we see our celebrities, like the stars of the silver screen.

Great deeds and careers, especially of those who are no longer with us to defend themselves, are often tarnished by old statements made somewhere in our past. Despite that, we should continue to look at and honor the positive impacts and legacies of these heroes of old.

One man that has left such a legacy is the “Duke” himself, John Wayne.

One of Orange County’s own, John Wayne was not just a world-renowned movie star, but a genuine American who exemplified courage, endurance and spirit — true grit. Such a great icon for us here that our local airport was named after Wayne.

Last year, Texas honored the Duke by passing a resolution commemorating his birthday. It is time for those of us here in his old stomping grounds to follow suit.

We see John Wayne’s many good deeds in our community still today. For example, the Duke helped make our country home to a number of Vietnamese refugees who were settling in the United States. With nearly 20% of Orange County residents being Asian American, some of our closest friends come from families of refugees themselves.

This is only a small part of the philanthropic and lasting legacy of Wayne. Prior to dying from stomach cancer, Wayne had already beaten lung cancer 15 years prior. His own battle gave him a new passion for helping others who were fighting this terrible disease.

For his contribution to healthcare, The Wayne Foundation has made a great impact in the field of cancer studies. The foundation helped to create The John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, formerly the John Wayne Cancer Clinic at UCLA. The research conducted by the institute has led to groundbreaking procedures and treatments. They have also launched a successful presentative youth program called “Block the Blaze” to raise skin cancer awareness.

Of course, the most memorable contribution of John Wayne was his unwavering support of our Armed Forces. He often visited with military members and even made trips to Japan and Vietnam through his several tours with the USO to boost the troops’ spirits in the Pacific. He was also posthumously awarded the Naval Heritage Award by the U.S. Navy for the support he showed to the Navy and military during his film career.

Wayne was a true patriot loyal to the democratic process, a quality that should cross political lines. Regardless of political affiliation and his own personal feelings, Wayne always showed respect and support to the president of the United States for the simple fact the president was “his” president.

Today, in a world of reality TV and seeking 15 minutes of fame through outrageous acts, it seems that the values we once held dear and that set our heroes apart are gone. Honoring a man like Wayne, who epitomized courage, dignity, integrity, and generosity ensure that such values are not completely extinct just yet. We can still honor a man that left a lasting legacy that continues to help the lives of others.

Originally published in the Daily Pilot.