Where are tomorrow’s leaders?

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Merry Christmas everyone! Yep, it’s that time again when I can take distinct pleasure in saying Merry Christmas and watching faces contort in responding, “You too, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays.”

This will be a busy week as I get the true honor of going to several different states to address groups of patriotic Americans. I’m on my way to Ohio where this evening I will speak on the campus of Miami (Ohio) University, the alma mater of my former colleague and GOP Vice Presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan.

From there I head South to Augusta, Georgia, Aiken South Carolina, Charlotte North Carolina, and Charleston South Carolina for the rest of the week.

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As I review this week’s schedule there’s one stop that’s really exciting for me: a visit to the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program at Lucy Laney High School in Augusta.

I am a product of the Army JROTC program at Henry Grady High in Atlanta. I will never forget my instructors there — LTC Pagonis, MAJ Heredia, MSG Buchanan, and SFC McMichael. Each of these stellar men had served in combat, either Korea or Vietnam, and some had done both. MSG Buchanan had been a POW in Vietnam.

These leaders saw something in me that I never realized existed and set my feet upon the path of becoming a future combat commander, and an American leader myself.

The lessons of my Dad, a World War II veteran, were expanded and reinforced by these Army veterans who elevated me to be the Cadet Battalion commander in my junior year, and set my sights towards earning my commission, which I did from the University of Tennessee.

At a time when we see so many negative stories — from our inner city especially, but about our young people in general — we need programs that builds character and a sense of duty, integrity, and honor.

At the end of this past September, I had the pleasure of going back to Grady High and visiting with the Cadet Battalion staff. It was a blessing to share with them my story and give them a window into the opportunity that was born from my days wearing that JROTC uniform 1976-1979.

And so we have the Allen West Foundation with a key part of its mission to support these programs nationwide. You can find out more about it here.

The recent sequestration cuts have had an adverse effect on the JROTC, Young Marine, and Navy Sea Cadet programs — we have a responsibility to secure the future of American leadership. We have established a scholarship program at my old High School — we want to be able to do more.

We sent a contribution to the Young Marine program in Louisiana because Eric Holder’s DOJ was cutting their funds because they have the words “under God” in their oath — we want to do more.

We’ve pledged support to the Navy Sea Cadet program in New Hampshire so they can continue sending kids to summer camp and Navy SEAL orientation training — we want to send more.

I hope you’ll join me in maintaining and expanding this great platform for developing the next American leader. Our young people are starving for positive examples to follow and they need a sense of discipline and standards in their lives now more than ever.

We certainly can’t expect this Obama administration to be a beacon. He seems to prefer them wedded to more government subsistence programs and dependent, not independent.

Our young people want to be a part of something. When I looked into the eyes of the Air Force JROTC Cadets at Sandalwood High in Jacksonville, Florida in October, I saw our future. I saw young men and women who possessed a sense of pride that will guarantee the security of our Republic for years to come.

Join us in supporting the Allen West Foundation so we can continue to visit and support these fine young Americans. And take a moment to share with me your HS JROTC experience — and let me know what program you would like for me to visit.

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