Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: Brothers Forever by Tom Sileo and Colonel Tom Manion, USMC (Ret.)

Last fall, as Jamie and I were entering into the final weekend of our preparation for the Marine Corps Marathon, we attended the Marine Corps Marathon Race Expo and picked up our shirts, our bibs, and  made our way along the rows of booths set up by vendors and non-profits alike. This was our third MCM, and this time we arrived for the opening of the venue. As we made our way through the rows of vendors we talked with folks and even made a few purchases based on some good deals we were finding.

Among the booths, we passed by one for the Travis Manion Foundation. At the booth they were selling copies of the book Brothers Forever by Tom Sileo and Colonel Tom Manion, USMC (Ret.). I knew very little about Travis, other than the fact that he was killed in action while serving in Iraq, and that one of our team members at Nuru, Mike Bigrigg, attended the United States Naval Academy and wrestled with Travis. I had also heard that Jake Harriman, my long time friend and our CEO at Nuru was going to be honored with an award from TMF. As I walked by the booth, someone handed me a bracelet that said, "If not me, then who..." that had an image of a Spartan mask on it. I decided it was time for me to learn more, so I picked up a copy of the book, and slid the bracelet on my wrist alongside my ONE and Nuru Kenya and Nuru Ethiopia bracelets.

I recently finished reading the book, and I found myself laughing one moment and then weeping the next. Here I was, sitting in the comfort of my home reading about the college days of a couple of people who would have been slightly younger than me today if they were still alive. As the book transitioned from their college days to their time of service in the Marines and Navy,  I started reading email excerpts and stories from others that were compiled to tell the story of how these two brave young warriors fell while serving this country and striving to help others in Iraq and Afghanistan. Too often, when we hear the news of a death, whether it is of a civilian or member of our military, unless we know the person directly we do not feel the weight of the loss. Tom Sileo and Colonel Manion in Brothers Forever help us feel the weight of the loss. They help us grieve the loss of young men and women whose lives were cut short as they served. They help us mourn together with the families of those who cry out to God, "Why did this have to happen?", of mother's who shriek and cry out grieving for their sons and daughters who are no more.

Books like this one not only help bring the reality of our own mortality close to home. They help us take stock of our own lives. Just as Travis had said, "If not me, then who..."; the more I personally think about those words and read the words on the bracelet that is still hanging on my wrist, the more I realize it is a challenge and a call to service. As the Travis Manion Foundation reminds us, we are to "Honor the fallen. Challenge the living." Most of us will never know the extreme challenges of combat or what gentlemen like Travis Manning and his best friend Brendan Looney endured in an effort to serve this country. But, you and I can honor the lives of these young men and their families, and the lives of many other men and women just like them who laid down their lives in service. How do we do it? We look for opportunities to lead and serve. We bring our best into each and every day. Wherever we are, we can choose to give of ourselves for the betterment of others.

I recommend picking up a copy of this book, visiting the Travis Manion Foundation website, and asking yourself this question, "If not me, then who..."? In the closing words of the authors, "There is no inscription to define the meaning of their sacrifice. That mission is ours." Look for those opportunities to serve in your community or in the world. My guess is that you won't have to look very far for an opportunity to pop up. May you have the courage to step into that opportunity fully, for the good of others.

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