by Mike Kennedy
Editor’s Note: At the Ready recently discussed the foundation with Derrick Morgan, National Manager - 9/11 Heroes Run.
Shortly before his final deployment to Iraq in 2007, USMC 1st Lt Travis Manion visited a local fire company in New York City. He talked with the firefighters there and heard their stories about some of their fallen comrades who died in the line of duty protecting and saving the lives of the locals they served. He left there with the understanding that these firefighters and first responders served in much the same way he did, they just did it at home. Just as he and his fellow servicemen selflessly faced danger to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; bearing true faith and allegiance to the same. Just as he and his fellow servicemen took that obligation freely, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion. Just as they swore to well and faithfully discharge their duties, so help them God. 1st Lt Manion recognized selfless service when he saw it. He left the fire company that day with a hat these brave men and women gave him with the words Never Forget the Heroes of 9/11 on it. He gave that hat to his father, also a United States Marine.
1st Lt. Travis Manion made the ultimate sacrifice in the Al Anbar province of Iraq during that deployment. He, his fellow Marines, and Iraqi Army counterparts were ambushed while searching a suspected insurgent house. 1st Lt. Manion led the counterattack against the enemy forces. He was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while aiding and drawing fire away from his wounded comrades. His selfless actions allowed every member of his patrol to survive. For his actions, he was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star with Valor. Before he left for his second and final deployment, 1st Lt Manion spoke these words, “If not me…then who?”
These words inspired his mother, Janet Manion, to start the foundation in 2007 with the mission “to assist our nation’s veterans and the families of fallen heroes” and the vision “to inspire and activate everyone with the generous spirit of those who serve.” The foundation’s impact has been huge. Measured at a glance, more than 50 communities in 26 states have been activated to honor our military and first responders; more than 60,000 people have been inspired every year by veterans in their communities serving as role models; and more than 100,000 people are connected and share the foundation ethos of “If Not Me…Then Who.”
The foundation has numerous programs that assist transitioning veterans and family members of fallen servicemen and first responders.
Mentorship and Advocacy
This program empowers post-9/11 veterans to achieve their professional goals and personal milestones through a 5 month funded internship, professional development, and peer-support program.
These expeditions inspire families of the fallen and veterans with specifically designed, service based trips to communities in need. The foundation started the latest expedition on July 16th where families of the fallen and veterans are bonding together in Lima, Peru for 10 days to build playgrounds for kids. The expeditions are a great way to honor the fallen by serving others.
9/11 Heroes Runs
These events activate local communities to honor and support veterans, first responders, and active service members through a series of 5k races held around 9/11 at more than 50 cities in the US and 10-15 cities around the world. These are special events because the local organizers get to choose a benefactor to whom a portion of proceeds will go. In some cases, the benefactor is a local fire-house or police department. Start a race in your local community by contacting the foundation here. This year the foundation has added a unique feature by allowing virtual runners to participate. If you can’t make it to a local race, just sign up for it then run a 5k at a location that is convenient for you. You still get to donate to this great cause and still get a race t-shirt.
Character Does Matter
This is a program aimed mostly at high school students to inspire them to be men and women of good character. The foundation currently has 95 ambassadors around the country who speak at their local high schools about the 4 pillars of character: Courage, Integrity, Leadership, and Service, by providing their personal examples. These are really special presentation because the ambassadors end each session by honoring a local fallen hero. This program has inspired more than 25,000 high school students to become men and women of excellent character who become leaders and servants of their communities. You can learn more about becoming an ambassador for your community by clicking here.
Learn more about Travis Manion and the permanent bond between him and fellow serviceman Brendan Looney, also killed in action by purchasing the book “Brothers Forever”