By Noelia Rane
Since the founding of the United States, our military has been there to protect us from potential threats and dangers to the American people. As we reflect on 9/11, it is important to acknowledge all that veterans and active military personnel have done and currently do to protect us. Below is an interview I conducted with Ryan Manion, one of the founders of the Travis Manion Foundation, who provided information about the foundation as well as ways that we can respect and honor the military in our daily lives.
What does your foundation do/support and why did you found it?
The Travis Manion Foundation was founded in the Philadelphia area after my brother Travis was killed during his second tour in Iraq. We wanted to make sure that we continued the legacy of his service and help veterans find purpose. It’s now one of the leading veteran organizations.
What is Travis Manion’s story?
Travis was my brother we were 15 months apart. We grew up in a military family, my dad was a marine, which meant we moved every couple of years. By the time we hit junior high we had lived in six or seven different places and attended six or seven different schools. Travis was really good at adapting to new places and experiences, he was a standout athlete, really focused academically, and he was just one of those guys that everybody loves. He went to the Naval Academy for college and ended up graduating from the academy in 2004, which is when he was commissioned into the Marine Corps. He did two tours in the Marine Corps and it was on his second tour that he was killed, but he did have a successful first tour in Iraq in 2005.
What’s something that came from creating the foundation that you didn’t expect?
I didn’t really expect the foundation to become what it is today. When we started this foundation we really saw it as a small family foundation that would help us grieve and help us be able to do a little bit of good in Travis’s name. Never did anyone who was a part of the founding of this organization ever imagine that it would become so large and that people would really latch onto the work that we’re doing in the way that they have. That certainly surprised all of us.
Of all of the programs and opportunities that the foundation has created, which has been your favorite/do you believe had the greatest impact on the community?
I think the Character Does Matter Program has had the greatest impact. It’s a program that trained veterans to deliver character education to youth. I believe that’s one of the most impactful programs that we made. We have thousands of veterans across the country that have delivered character education to over half a million kids. I think it’s a beautiful way for veterans to continue to serve and for our next generation to start to really hone in on what it means to develop their character.
How can people show their appreciation and support for veterans in their daily life?
I think the best thing you can do is to, if you do know someone that served, simply thank them for their service and ask them about their service. I think besides just thanking and understanding their service, we can also live by their ideas. They’re out there every day serving and protecting us, so I think that we who don’t serve in the military doing the right thing every day is a good start.
Is there anything you have to say to teenagers and young adults today who are considering joining the armed forces?
The military provides many opportunities that are not available otherwise. You get to see the world, experience an adventure, and provide service to your country. I always encourage people to look at that avenue as a potential road for them to go down.
How does one become a part of the Travis Manion Foundation?
You can get involved and learn more by going to travismanion.org. You can join the mission right there and find out about things that are happening within your own community. Anyone can be a part of the Travis Manion Foundation, you don’t have to be military-connected or a veteran. There are opportunities for civilians, so we hope everybody gets involved.