- - Thursday, May 26, 2016

America entered the month of May on the verge of civil war, at least in the political arena.

Over the course of the last year, Americans have engaged in a heated battle to determine who will fill the role of commander-­‐in-­‐chief. This election cycle has brought about societal iniquities from our candidates and citizenry alike.

Clearly, we need a role model. Yes, we have learned that even our candidates vying to lead the free world are in need (more-­‐so than many of us) of examples of leadership.

There is perhaps no greater day to reflect on the idea of leadership than on Memorial Day; a day set aside by our government for Americans to observe military service men and women who died for the freedom to choose who leads.

On Memorial Day thousands of veterans, from World War II onward, will grace Washington, D.C. for the National Memorial Day Parade. This is far more than your average parade.

While it will certainly feature a fair share of marching bands, beauty queens, and celebrities, what’s most important is the moving timeline of American military history that will be on display, consisting of men and women who fought in wars as far back as WWII, and re-­‐enactments of wars as far back as the Revolution.

The heroes partaking in Monday’s parade provide for us exemplary models of what real American leadership looks like, at a time when Americans need it the most.

Heroes like 100-­‐year-­‐old Brigadier General Robert Hardaway, who was a surgeon stationed at Pearl Harbor during Japan’s infamous attack. In a time of crisis, he took it upon himself to tend to the wounded while bombs were dropped all around him.

Or the “Flying Tigers,” who are the American pilots who flew from China to fight off the Japanese immediately following the Pearl Harbor attacks. Just as everything was falling apart, they selflessly volunteered themselves to fight and defend fellow Americans in desperate need. Their efforts resulted in the first American victory of WWII.

Or the Tuskegee Airmen; the first African-­‐American pilots in U.S. Military history, who – despite the overwhelming racial prejudice they faced at home – enlisted to defend all Americans, even those who despised them.

The above are just a few of the many veterans who will attend the parade and provide just a few heroic examples and stories that came from the leadership of men and women who, with integrity and selflessness, took it upon themselves to lead.

Today, America is not involved in a physical war, at least not one comparable to those before us. Today we face a war of words; a civil war between descendants of the very men and women who bypassed each others’ differences and locked arms together to accomplish the preservation of a shared American identity, which embodies the very freedom and democracy we currently practice. It is because of their sacrifice and leadership that we are able to have the political discourse we so freely abuse today.

If the leaders of today acted with the same integrity, selflessness and competence of those who led our forefathers, imagine all of the amazing feats we could accomplish as a nation.

Aristotle first pointed out that a nation’s military is a reflection of their society, but perhaps America has reached a point where we should look to our military in an effort to reflect the virtues upheld throughout the generations.

If only for just one day, this Memorial Day, let us lay our tightly held political affiliations aside and focus on the lives and ideals that unite us rather than the issues that divide us.

Perhaps some of this will make way into our hearts, and the hearts of those seeking to lead, and will provide needed healing from the toxicity that has filled our climate during this political season.

James C. Roberts is the President of the American Veterans Center, a non-profit foundation founded in 1978 that works to preserve the legacy of all American veterans. Visit their website at AmericanVeteransCenter.org.

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