The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that fifty five percent of veterans feel disconnected to their new civilian life. A discussion on how mentorship helps veterans reconnect and develop character in future generations, a mission inspired by two fallen heroes, Travis Manion and Brendan Looney. A discussion with Amy Looney,?Director of Operations, Mid-Atlantic for the Travis Manion Foundation.
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Interview recorded on October 21, 2016.
Traynham: The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 55 percent of veterans feel disconnected to their new civilian life. For the next few minutes, we'll discuss how mentorship helps veterans reconnect. Hello, everybody, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham, and joining me is Amy Looney, the Mid-Atlantic Director of Operations for the Travis Manion Foundation. Amy, welcome to the program.
Looney: Thank you, Robert.
Traynham: I want to start off first with your personal story and why you were inspired to do this work.
Traynham: Before we talk about the specifics.
Looney: Okay. You know, I got involved with the Travis Manion Foundation for a more personal reason more than anything. Travis Manion was a Marine who was killed in April of 2007 in Iraq by an enemy sniper. And Travis was my late husband, Lieutenant SEAL Brendan Looney's, roommate at the Naval Academy. And the three of us had gotten very close in our time. They were obviously at the Naval Academy. I was doing my undergrad at Johns Hopkins University, and we became very close. And after Travis went off to the Marine Corps, went out to San Diego, and Brendan was out here on the East Coast, we all maintained and stayed connected. And after Travis was killed, that was really one of the first major hardships that Brendan and I had gone through in our relationship. And it was really important for Brendan and I to find an outlet and a way to be able to support Travis' family, who were obviously going through so much, and for us to continue carrying on Travis' legacy, even though he was no longer here. So, fast-forward 3 1/2 years later to September of 2010. Brendan was deployed as a SEAL to Afghanistan, and he was killed in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash. So, for me, having compounded these two massive losses, and I was only 29 years old at the time, for me, I needed to find a way to be able to carry on Brendan's legacy. And obviously, that comes in conjunction with our friendship with Travis because that was so important to him and to I while he was alive. So, after Travis was killed, his family started the Travis Manion Foundation, and it was really a way for us to share the message of not only Travis and then losing Brendan 3 1/2 years later, but for us to be able to show all of our nation the type of men that Brendan and Travis were, their character, their leadership, their selfless service, these things that I wanted people to know well beyond the years that I will live.
Traynham: And do you believe that those are the principles or tenets, if you will, of the foundation that you try to not only live, but you try to give to other individuals, as well?
Looney: Yeah, what we're doing at the Travis Manion Foundation is very unique. We're really out there, and we're redefining America's national character, and we're doing that by empowering our veterans and our families of the fallen to develop character in future generations. And through the programs that we're doing, we're enabling these survivors and veterans to go out and really help redefine what that new purpose and meaning looks like, whether that's after their loss or after getting out of the military. It also allows them to get connected back within their communities, and we're also helping them leverage and teach them what their strengths are so that they're able to navigate this next journey.
Traynham: You know, Amy, speaking of connection and journey and so forth, my understanding is, one out of three young adults do not have a mentor in their lives or have never had a mentor in their lives. Walk us through some of the tactics that perhaps the foundation embarks upon to be able to bridge that gap.
Looney: Yeah, absolutely. So, our whole concept is really built around training, which we call our Spartan Ambassadors, these veterans and families of the fallen, to go out and talk about character. And we do this through two different facets. One is through our character presentations. So we're going into basically high schools, talking to high-school students.
Traynham: Around the country or perhaps on the East Coast or...
Looney: All across the country. We have veterans and families of the fallen that are trained all across the U.S. So it's really nice. A lot of them are doing schools within their own communities, so they're able to get that sense of being connected within their own backyards back again. And what a better forum to do that through developing character right in their own communities and in their own schools.
Traynham: Five years from now, do you believe that the mission statement will stay true to your late husband's legacy and memory and Travis', or do you think it will evolve based on the needs of young Americans out there?
Looney: You know, I think we will always stay core to the true essence of really defining character, and when we look at character, the way that the foundation sums it up is through five words that Travis spoke, and I feel like even now and five years from now, these words will translate to any generation that hears them. So these five words that Travis spoke before his last deployment are, "If not me, then who?" And that's really how we define character, and we break it down through different values -- grit, resiliency -- but it's really the concept built around, "If I don't go out and do it, then who else will?" And I do think that'll resonate years down the road.
Traynham: Amy Looney, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Looney: Thank you so much.
Traynham: And thank you for joining us for this edition of "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Robert Traynham. Have a great day, everybody. We'll see you next time. Bye-bye.