Travis Manion Foundation: honoring the fallen

By: Mark Hyman

Travis Manion of Doylestown, PA was the son of a Marine Colonel.  He excelled in high school in both academics and sports rising to become an All-America wrestler.  He received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy where he became a preseason top 20 wrestler his senior year. 

His Naval Academy roommate and best friend was Brendan Looney, who was also a gifted athlete.  Brendan quit the football team his sophomore year to take up the sport of lacrosse.  In his senior year he was the inspirational leader of the Navy lacrosse team that lost a one-goal decision to Syracuse University in the NCAA national championship game.  It was also the first time Brendan played organized lacrosse with his younger brothers, Stephen and Billy, who were on that same Naval Academy team.  The Looney brothers were from Owings, MD.
After graduation in 2004, Travis was commissioned in the Marine Corps.  He would eventually serve two tours in Iraq.  During his final patrol mission on Sunday, April 29, 2007, Travis was killed by enemy sniper fire while  courageously pulling others to safety, including a wounded Navy hospital corpsman, in the midst of a ferocious  enemy ambush.  Travis was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star w/ Valor for his actions in Iraq.  He was buried in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Brendan was commissioned in 2004 as an Intelligence Officer in the Navy and after one tour in South Korea was accepted into SEAL training.  He was beginning SEAL training when he learned of Travis’ death.  He was not permitted to leave training to attend the funeral.  Instead he dedicated his SEAL training to his best friend.  He completed SEAL training as “Honor Man,” the top graduate in the class.
Brendan had already completed two combat tours in Iraq when he was sent on a combat tour to Afghanistan.  On September 21, 2010, near the end of his tour and only days before he would return home the Black Hawk helicopter in which he was riding crashed in the Afghanistan mountains.  Nine servicemen, including Brendan, were killed.

Both the Manion and Looney families knew what should happen next.  Travis was removed from the family cemetery near Philadelphia and reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery on a Friday morning in October 2010.  Brendan was buried alongside him the following Monday.

Best friends were together again.

You can learn more about Travis and Brendan at: Baltimore Sun (here). CBS News (here) I mention all of this because one of “my” midshipmen is raising money for the Travis Manion Foundation (here).  Ian Eisenhauer will graduate from the Naval Academy in May 2013.  He generously volunteered in a program I started at a troubled public middle school in Annapolis in 2009.  In the past three years, nearly 200 midshipmen volunteered to tutor and serve as mentors for students at the Wiley H. Bates Middle School.  We believe the program has been successful because in 2011 — and for the first time in many years — Bates Middle School made adequate yearly progress (AYP), an academic performance standard based on annual standardized test scores.  In fact, Bates had the 3rd biggest AYP improvement of  all 100 middle and elementary schools in Anne Arundel County.

Ian was one of three midshipmen that I drove from USNA to Bates every Wednesday morning to work with middle school students for a two hour block.

BTW, Ian is in the midst of the medical school application process.  He would like to become a Navy doctor after graduation.

The following is part of an email Ian sent to me while he was completing a military exchange in South Africa this summer.  Ian hopes to raise a modest $1,000 for the Travis Manion Foundation.  I would like to think we can help him surpass that goal by a wide margin.

“This fall, I am going to do the USMC Marathon in the name of Travis Manion and Brendan Looney.  They were each members of my company at USNA, and have died in service to their country since they graduated into the Marine Corps and Navy Seal communities in 2004, respectively.  These two are a continuing inspiration to me, and in their honor, the Travis Manion Foundation has pushed to “honor the fallen by challenging the living” through support of grants and educational funds for community service projects, higher education to future leaders, and many other noble causes.  Please consider supporting the cause and my run by giving something small to the foundation.  I have a goal to raise $1000 before October 27 when I compete in the marathon, where I hope to finish in less than 3 hours.  The website below is my support page, and my Marathon ID number is 564.  I will send out a future email so that everyone can follow me if they wish.”

About The Author Mark Hyman:
Mark Hyman hosts "Behind the Headlines," a commentary program for Sinclair Broadcast Group.

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