Editor’s Note:The following is an excerpt from the new book,“Brothers Forever
: The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice.”
The book tells the story of Travis Manion and Brendan Loone, roommates at the U.S. Naval Academy during the attacks of September 11, 2001 who later died in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. They were buried next to each other at Arlington National Cemetery.
In this excerpt, Looney’s widow Amy reminisces with Manion’s mother Janet at a public wake for Looney.
With well over a thousand people inside, Brendan’s parents were busy greeting mourners. Amy, still in shock after seeing her husband’s body, could not handle doing that for more than a few minutes.
When she wasn’t upstairs taking a break, she usually stood next to her mum and Janet, who put her arm around Brendan’s wife and held her upright whenever her knees began to buckle. During one particularly sad moment for Amy, both she and Janet realised they were facing DeMatha’s wrestling room.
“OK, let’s go ahead and face the other direction,” Janet said with her arm around Amy. The wrestling mat was a clear reminder of Travis, just as a lacrosse stick would naturally remind them of Brendan. When Amy started to cry, Janet spoke.
“Remember the story about how the boys went on a bike ride with that poor kid and basically left him out in the woods because they started racing?” Janet said. “They were always competing, those two.”
“Gosh, I know, it’s just like the first time I went for a quote-unquote ‘jog’ with them and it ended up basically being a half marathon,” Amy said, wiping away tears with a handkerchief. “I can almost guarantee that after shaking hands, the first thing Travis and Brendan did when they first saw each other again up there was go for a run.”
“And someday, we’ll see them again,” said Janet, nodding in agreement.
When they went upstairs to take a break, Janet, Christina, and Amy saw Tom, Kevin, and several others in the room gathered around a small television screen. The Washington Redskins, led by former Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb, happened to be playing the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
On that solemn Sunday above the DeMatha gym, where mourners were walking past Brendan’s casket, it was only appropriate that Brendan’s favourite team was playing Travis’s.
“Brendan used to wear Travis’s Eagles jersey at games because he was such a good sport,” Janet said. “So for the first time in my life, I’m going to root for the Redskins today.”
The Redskins beat the heavily favoured Eagles, 17 — 12.
After thousands packed Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on a drizzly Monday morning, Brendan’s flag-draped casket, covered with a plastic sheet to protect it from steady early afternoon rainfall, arrived at Arlington National Cemetery.
About four thousand people, all saluting or with a hand placed over their hearts, lined the cemetery street as six white horses pulled the fallen Navy SEAL toward his place of rest. Four uniformed soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Old Guard, which handles Arlington funerals with such dignity, guided the horses forward until they quietly stopped, after which U.S. Navy sailors carried Brendan toward Travis and the fallen heroes of Section 60.
Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Da Capo Press, from Brothers Forever. Copyright © 2014 by Tom Sileo and Thomas Manion.
Tom Sileo, co-author of Brothers Forever: The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice, is an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist whose weekly newspaper column has been distributed by Creators Syndicate since 2011. He is a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow and lives in Marietta, Georgia.
Colonel Tom Manion, USMCR (Ret.), co-author of Brothers Forever: The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice, is the father of First Lieutenant Travis Manion. He started his career in the Marine Corps, retiring after thirty years at the rank of colonel. He is chairman emeritus at the Travis Manion Foundation and lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
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