MEMORIAL DAY BOOK REVIEW: 'Brothers Forever': You Can't Read This Book Without Tears Streaming Down Your Face

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
MEMORIAL DAY BOOK REVIEW: 'Brothers Forever': You Can't Read This Book Without Tears Streaming Down Your Face

First off, I'm dedicating this review of "Brothers Forever; The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy SEAL That Transcended Their Ultmate Sacrifice" (Da Capo Press, 312 pages, glossy photo inserts, notes, index, foreword by Gen. John Allen, USMC Ret., $25.99) to all the men and women who've served their country in the armed forces. I especially dedicate it to those who -- like Travis L. Manion and Brendan Looney -- made the ultimate sacrifice.

Authors Tom Sileo and Col. Tom Manion, USMC Ret., have produced a magnificent book that I couldn't finish without tears streaming down my face. It's that moving. It's a story of two U.S. Naval Academy classmates who became best friends. The authors show Travis L. Manion and Brendan Looney in their hijinks and rivalries: Doylestown, PA native Manion was a devoted Philadelphia Eagles fan and Looney, from the Maryland suburbs of DC, was just as devoted to the Washington Redskins. But when they went to an Eagles game or a 'Skins one, they swapped their sweatshirts! Sometimes the tears you get reading this book come from laughing at the friendly competition between Travis and Brendan!

Travis Manion died first, on April 29, 2007, felled by a sniper's bullet in the so-called Pizza Slice neighborhood of Fallujah, Al Anbar province, Iraq, possibly the most dangerous place in Iraq.

His "Brother Forever", Brendan "Loon-Dog" Looney, a Navy SEAL lieutenant, died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Sept. 21, 2010 -- just days before his six-month  tour of duty would be concluded and he would return to his wife, the former Amy Hastings, in San Diego.

The Manion and Looney families bonded as one and decided that the two men deserved to be buried together and they succeeded in having Travis and Brendan buried side by side in  Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. The last photo in the book -- facing page 243 -- shows the burial site.

                                                         * * * 

Travis Manion's grave marker reads: TRAVIS  L. MANION 1ST  LT USMC NOV 19, 1980 APR 29, 2007 IRAQI FREEDOM  SILVER STAR  BRONZE STAR W/V  PURPLE HEART   IF NOT ME THEN WHO

Brendan Looney's market reads:  BRENDAN LOONEY LT US  NAVY  FEB 24 1981  SEPT 21 2010  OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM   US NAVY SEAL   LOVING HUSBAND  SON & BROTHER

                                                       * * * 

Award-winning journalist Tom Sileo and Travis’s father, former Marine colonel Tom Manion, tell the intimate and personal story of how these Naval Academy roommates exemplified a generation’s sacrifice after 9/11, and how Travis and Brendan’s loved ones overcame heartbreak to carry on in their memory. 

Travis’s incredible heroism on the streets of Fallujah to Brendan’s Navy SEAL training in San Diego in the wake of his friend’s death -- he was unable to attend Travis's funeral in Pennsylvania -- and his own heroism in the mountains of Afghanistan, make this book  a remarkable story of friendship, family, and war.

When I said I couldn't read a page without tearing up, I was especially drawn to the accounts of the women in the book: Travis's mother, Janet; his older sister Ryan Borek; Ryan's daughters Maggie and Honor;  Brendan's wife Amy, and his mom, Maureen. They displayed the finest qualities of women in America. This is not to slight the men in the lives of Travis and Brendan: they represent men at their finest in their emotional support of the women.

Both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama have recognized the achievements and sacrifices of Travis Manion and Brendan Looney and their families. I hope this review of "Brothers Forever" will bring this book to the attention of more readers. The book should be read by everyone, especially in this era of all-volunteer military service. The lack of a draft or universal military training brings enhanced meaning to the inscription on Travis Manion's marker: IF NOT ME THEN WHO.

About the Authors

Tom Sileo 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.

Tom Manion 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.

Here is a link to a wonderful illustrated story in Parade magazine about Travis and Brendan: http://parade.condenast.com/297011/barryyeoman/brothers-forever-how-two-friends-came-to-rest-side-by-side-at-arlington-national-cemetery/ 

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