Tom Manion: I’m the father of a fallen Marine. It’s service that has kept my son Travis' spirit alive

On Father’s Day, parents can’t help but think about all that goes into raising kids. The highs and the lows. The happy times, and the sad ones. The moments of joy, and the moments of disappointment.

The point is that the wild ride that is parenting, packed with the widest range of emotions and experiences, makes our children who they are; it forms their character. And for us, the parents, seeing our kids stand up and walk into the world on their own makes all of the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.

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My wife and I raised our two children while I served on active duty in the Marine Corps. Being a military family had its challenges. Yet my only son, Travis, decided to follow in my footsteps and become a Marine.

It’s hard to describe the amount of pride I felt when I watched him commission on May 28, 2004. And it’s even harder to describe the pain when I found out that he was killed while serving in Iraq on April 29, 2007.

Although Travis was just 26-years-old when an enemy sniper’s bullet took him from us, I continue to marvel every day at his courage and wisdom. Before his second and final combat deployment, he was asked why he had to go back. His response was simple but powerful: “If not me, then who?” It has inspired me as well as thousands of others through the work of the non-profit named after him.

Travis Manion's legacy continues to grow through the work of the Travis Manion Foundation, inspiring people to live with character and make an impact by serving others.

Travis Manion's legacy continues to grow through the work of the Travis Manion Foundation, inspiring people to live with character and make an impact by serving others.

I lost my son but certainly not in every sense. Through Travis Manion Foundation, I have gained thousands of sons and daughters cut from the same cloth. They are not only his living legacy but the living legacy of our country’s enduring spirit of duty and honor.

These men and women epitomize our warriors, who are committed to protecting America and its values, both abroad and within our own communities. They may not look like Travis, but they share our servant’s heart.

I lost my son but certainly not in every sense. Through Travis Manion Foundation, I have gained thousands of sons and daughters cut from the same cloth. They are not only his living legacy but the living legacy of our country’s enduring spirit of duty and honor.

Marine Veteran Keith Palmer grew up in North Philadelphia. After proudly serving his country in uniform, he came home and serves as a mentor for at-risk youth. Some of these boys and girls are raised by one parent as he was. Never forgetting where he came from, Keith helps these young adults discover their unique strengths, building their character and setting them on the path to success.

Marine veteran Keith Palmer 

Marine veteran Keith Palmer 

While in the Peace Corps in Namibia, North Carolinian Kaitlyn Shepard developed a computer literacy curriculum and created a small computer lab. She worked one-on-one with women from the community who then became local teachers. When she returned home to the Tar Heel State, she decided to dedicate herself to supporting veterans and developing character in the next generation of American citizens.

Kaitlyn Shepard

Kaitlyn Shepard

Army Sergeant Earl Lundy was stationed in Afghanistan when a vehicle blast left him buried for hours beneath rubble and left the mobility of his legs in question. He has since recovered and returned to his home state of Texas, where he mentors youth with behavioral issues, helping them overcome adversity.

Army Sergeant Earl Lundy 

Army Sergeant Earl Lundy 

He is a master at building rapport with kids who others have given up on. Tapping into the traumatic event that changed his life forever, Earl teaches every youth perseverance and resilience.

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On Father’s Day, I reflect on the 26 years I had with Travis. I’m so proud of him. And I’m also so proud of all of my new sons and daughters -- like Keith, Kaitlyn, and Earl -- that I’ve gained in the 12 years since our son was taken away from us. When I spend time with them, I feel Travis standing beside us.

To all of the fathers deservedly enjoying this day with your children, my hope is that you savor this moment. Whether you are a new dad or your children are grown, appreciate the gift. I hope you all are filled with the love and sense of purpose that I feel. Have a very Happy Father’s Day.