“If Not Me Then Who?”

Building a Community to Advance Society

President of the Travis Manion Foundation: Ryan Manion

Travis Manion Foundation

President of the Travis Manion Foundation: Ryan Manion

We vow never to forget our fallen soldiers; however, many Americans struggle to find involvement in the remembrance of our heroes. Ryan Manion lost her brother Travis Manion when he was killed in Iraq on April 29, 2007. Travis was a Marine of the First Marine Recon Battalion; on his second Tour in Iraq, he was fatally wounded by an enemy sniper while drawing fire away from his fellow marines. That day Travis sacrificed himself for the benefit of others, and in return, no other marines were killed that day. Like many Gold Star families, the Manions began to look for a way to keep the memory of Travis alive. In September 2009, Janet Manion, the mother of Travis and Ryan, Founded the Travis Manion Foundation to honor the sacrifices her son and many other fallen heroes made. The foundation began with the initial goal of “honoring the fallen by challenging the living.” The foundation was built around Travis Manion’s motto, “If not me then who.” By following this motto, they work to inspire the next generation of leaders through service and character-building.

Two years later, in 2009, Ryan Manion was named the first executive director of the Travis Manion Foundation. Ryan Manion has served as the executive director from 2009-present and has accomplished some major things in her time doing so, such as starting the Character Does Matter Program, Writing a book called Knock on the door, and even helping to secure safe passage to the United States for Travis’s Afghan Interpreter, Basharmal, during the United States chaotic military pullout from Afghanistan. It is through these accomplishments and many more that she has built an excellent reputation for the foundation continuing the “if not me then who” mission.

In 2009 Ryan Manion began the Character Does Matter program after speaking to students at Lasalle college high school, Travis’s alma mater. She continued to speak at different high schools throughout the Philadelphia school district; these speaking events became the cornerstone for a nationwide veteran mentorship project known as the Character Does Matter Program. After a few events, Ryan Manion and the Travis Manion Foundation refined the program with help from a United States Naval Academy Leadership and ethics professor. The refined program aims to accomplish two goals, assist in the re-acclimation of veterans into society and provide a positive role model for adolescents who have never had one. The Character Does Matter Program, also known as the CDM program, helps students to identify their character strengths and use them to build up their community. In an interview with Ryan Manion, she described her two most valued character strengths, the first being bravery, and the second being grit. She explained how bravery gives her “the strength to persevere” through all aspects of life, whether that be speaking in front of a crowd or organizing the safe transport of an Afghan family in a crisis. Ryan Manion further went on to explain her second most important character strength: grit; she described grit as “the commitment to a goal even when motivation is lost.” She discussed the importance of grit on days when we lack motivation.

While Ryan Manion and the Travis Manion Foundation Have amassed great attention for all of their positive work Ryan Manion still remains humble, living the tenet that there is still so much more for herself and the foundation to accomplish. She credits this to her brother Travis, who was also highly accomplished yet humble in all aspects of life. Even with all of the awards she has earned, she considers her greatest accomplishment to be the community that the Travis Manion Foundation has created and the awareness the foundation has raised for the military community, in addition to highlighting the assets that military members bring to the community. A Pennridge High School student, Zach Kelpeiss, active in the foundation, described the impact the foundation has had on him “The Travis Manion Foundation has made a huge impact on how I view the world around me, leaders such as Ryan have given me the drive to serve my community and help those around me.” Through the work of RyanManion and the foundation, Travis’s story continues to live through the service of others such as Kelpeiss.

The concept of character and building good character to inspire the next generation of leaders are the backbone of the Travis Manion Foundation. Under the leadership of Ryan, There is no doubt that they have accomplished their mission and will continue to help veterans, grow their community, and inspire leadership all across the world. In an effort to help build the character of the next generation Ryan Manion’s advice is“it is never too soon to play a part in society, that part could be big or small, but regardless, you are making your community a better place.”