RICHMOND, Va. -- Whether on the home front or the battlefield, Travis Manion is remembered as a natural born leader. The young man with a sterling reputation and character inspired family and friends like fellow U.S. Marine Corky Gardner.
Gardner met Travis in 1994 when he was in the seventh grade.
"Travis was more of that quiet leader where you saw the core of him which had such dedication and wanted to follow his example," Gardner said. "If you looked up Marine in the dictionary you would see Travis’ picture next to the definition."
Manion was a Naval Academy graduate and also trained and served at Quantico in Virginia. He put others before himself, and lived by the words “If not me, then who.”
"Sometimes a person walks into the room and you’re captivated by that," Gardner said. "Travis was so humble. He never sought that kind of recognition."
Eleven years ago, in April 2007, while Travis was serving his second tour in Iraq, a sniper ended his life in Fallujah.
Travis died saving fellow wounded soldiers.
"I think about him all of the time," Gardner said. “Iron sharpens Iron. One person makes a person better. Holding other people accountable and caring for them."
But the loss of Travis was not in vain.
Shortly after his death, the Manion family established a foundation in Travis’ name. The Travis Manion Foundation carries on the legacy of the fallen Marine by helping veterans, families of fallen heroes, and first responders.
Foundation mentors like Clay Grogan also lead youth groups in community service projects like the construction of the Veterans and Athletes United memorial in Chesterfield.
"The whole basis on the organization is the way Travis lived his life," Grogan said. :You look for the first thing you can do to help out. It’s a fantastic organization.”
Next month, the Travis Manion Foundation steps into the spotlight. Clay Grogan said the Foundation’s annual 9/11 Heroes Run invites Richmonders to tackle a 5K across the river to remember service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"The run has grown since we started this," Grogan said.
Organizers said Travis’ giving spirit will be alive and well along the course.
Travis Manion’s life may have been cut short, but the courageous young man -- who will forever be 27 -- still inspires to this day.
"I’ve run 5k races just like this with Travis right next to me," Gardner said. "The way he led his Marines is the way we should all care for the people we’re all blessed to work with.”
There will be more than 50 Travis Manion Foundation runs across America in September. Richmond's 5K will be held on September 9 at 2 p.m. For more information, click here.
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