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What Father’s Day is really about: Cherishing sons and daughters

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Travis ManionCourtesy The Travis Manion Foundation

Father’s Day has always been a special day for me. But today, as with the previous seven Father’s Days, the feelings of pride and satisfaction over my son Travis and daughter Ryan will be mixed with a void in my heart that can never be replaced.

That is because Travis will not be with us. 

In April of 2007, he was serving as a Marine first lieutenant when he was killed in action in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province, cut down by a sniper’s armor-piercing bullet after his unit was ambushed while searching a suspected insurgent house. He had just helped save two wounded comrades when the bullet struck him in the heart. He was 26.

I am one of thousands of fathers whose thoughts will turn today to a son or daughter lost serving our country.

Travis always made me extremely proud. A varsity athlete in football, lacrosse and wrestling in high school, he went on to graduate from the Naval Academy and served our country with great honor as a Marine officer through two tours in Iraq.

As an aspiring athlete and a 30-year Marine myself, I was able to share so much with Travis as he grew into manhood. I was always happy when he would come to me for advice or just ask to play catch.

I am one of thousands of fathers whose thoughts will turn today to a son or daughter lost serving our country. And from that perspective, I’d like to ask you to approach Father’s Day a little differently this year.

While it feels great as a dad to have a day where you are the center of attention, think instead of this as a day for celebrating the bonds between fathers and their sons and daughters.  Consider this a day, as a father, to appreciate all of the blessings you have as a family and share those special moments together.

Let the day be a reminder of just how important you are in each other’s lives. In my case, while my son Travis may be gone, my heart and thoughts are with my daughter Ryan, her husband Dave and my three grandchildren.

Today, if you are fortunate enough to be with your children, make the day a celebration of the unique relationships you have forged. Drag out the photo albums and the videos and remember every detail of the experiences you have shared.

Talk with your children about their lives, their dreams, their aspirations – and be thankful for what you have.

Col. Tom Manion, is co-author of “Brothers Forever: The Enduring Bond between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice,” an account of the friendship, lives and deaths of 1st Lt. Travis Manion and Lt. Brendan Looney. He is a board member of the Travis Manion Foundation.