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On Friday night, before the Penn Mutual CRC, the Navy Midshipmen had a special guest come speak to them and provide them with a form of inspiration. That guest was Colonel Tom Manion of the United States Marine Corp.
Manion is the co-author of the book Brothers Forever and the father of Lieutenant Travis Manion, who made the ultimate sacrifice in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tom Manion wrote the book with award winning journalist Tom Sileo chronicling the relationship between Travis and his Naval Academy roommate Brandon Looney, and the impact both of their deaths had on their respective families.
In the words of the Travis Manion Foundation, the book tells the, “intimate and personal story of how these Naval Academy roommates defined a generation’s sacrifice after 9/11, and how Travis and Brendan’s loved ones overcame heartbreak to carry on in their memory.”
It is a harrowing story of two individuals that became great friends in college and even more extraordinary leaders in the military. The expression, “If Not Me then Who,” has become the motto of the Travis Manion Foundation that was started by Travis’ late mother, Jane, in the wake of his death in 2007.
Prior to embarking on his second deployment to Iraq, Travis told his mother, “If not me then who.” Little did he know that his words would challenge the entire nation to better themselves, long after his time on earth.
“'If Not Me, Then Who' has inspired a national movement that is growing rapidly. Veterans and families of the fallen are spearheading this movement to build a nation of heroes in which character, leadership and service are in action every day,” says the Travis Manion Foundation website.
Although three years apart, Manion and Looney paid the ultimate sacrifice and are now reunited, buried side by side in Arlington National Cemetery. On Friday night Tom Manion provided each member of the Navy rugby squad with a copy of the book and gave an inspirational speech to the next generation of soldiers.
“I think to have Tom Manion speak to our team was absolutely fantastic,” said Navy coach Mike Flanagan. “I think it resonated a lot with our team. It was huge for us to hear Travis’ dad, a retired Colonel, stand up and talk to us about the core values of the Naval Academy, which are honor, courage and commitment.”
For many members of the current Navy squad, this was a sobering yet inspirational speech. For David Scrhroeder, who enrolled in the Naval Academy after a tour of duty, Manion’s words had a very strong impact on him.
“To hear somebody who has been through what he was through, having lost his son and recently his wife, is dramatic,” Schroeder recounted. “It was incredibly moving.”
For his commitment to serving others, Penn Mutual bestowed on Schroeder the Penn Mutual Life of Significance Award and made a financial donation to the charity of his choice. Schroeder elected for the funds to go to the Travis Manion Foundation.
Both Travis Manion and Brendan Looney represent everything that embodies the core values of the Naval Academy. It was quite an honor that Tom Manion was willing to share their story and spend some time with the United States Naval Academy rugby team prior to the Penn Mutual CRC tournament.