Our veterans provide us all a lesson in integrity, loyalty, resiliency, and so many other notable character traits. The Under Armour Freedom Initiative is committed to supporting these men and women. Bolstering this support is the Travis Manion Foundation (TMF), uniting veterans and families of fallen heroes to lead the charge in creating a nation of purpose-driven individuals and thriving communities built upon character.
The foundation began in 2007 to honor the life and legacy of Travis Manion, a fallen Marine remembered for his strong leadership qualities, athleticism and academic achievement. To help carry on Travis’ legacy, the organization leverages the voices and experience of America’s veterans and families of the fallen, to build character in the next generation of leaders. People like Sergeant Earl Lundy, an Army veteran, and Theresa Jones, wife of Lieutenant Commander Landon Jones, who gave his life in service on Sept. 22, 2013, are recalibrating their purpose and instilling strong character in our nation’s youth.
The foundation’s rallying call is, “If Not Me, Then Who...”
Responsive to this call is Lundy, determined to pass on the importance of teamwork and perseverance to youth. He had a near-death experience while serving in Afghanistan in 2008 when he suddenly found himself buried beneath the rubble of a house after an IED explosion. He had to retire from his military service and spent the next three years learning how to walk again. “I wanted to quit, but the motto that the military taught me is that I’ll never accept defeat, and I will never leave a comrade behind,” Lundy said.
Despite his injury, he was unwilling to lose sight of who he was. “Perseverance helped me get here, not quitting and not giving up. People need to see that, veterans need to see that, youth need to see that so that they understand that, just because this bad thing happens to you, it doesn’t mean that this is the end. It could very well be something to push you forward,” Lundy said. Lundy now shares this message with youth in Houston, TX.
He is a Veteran Mentor through TMF’s Character Does Matter program, which empowers veterans to teach lessons on identifying, developing and leveraging personal character strengths. He encourages youth to push past self-perceived limitations to maximize their full potential. “It’s all about never quitting,” he says. Lundy travels around giving motivational speeches about character and notes that TMF armed him with the necessary skills and confidence to share his story. “In every stage of life that we go through, there are going to be new hurdles or a new challenge that we have to overcome,” Lundy said. Through the power of sport, Lundy believes that he can inspire youth to push through despite challenging circumstances. “If they can do one more pushup, what else can they push past."
Likewise, Theresa Jones, a Gold Star Wife, is finding her strength and identity again through her work with TMF. She found a support system in TMF following her husband Landon’s death in combat in 2013, and is using her tragedy as fuel to carry on the life and legacy of her husband’s perseverance. “No matter how defeated he felt, he kept trying. He would never bow out,” Jones said. Today, she has found a renewed determination as a Character Does Matter mentor out of TMF’s Coronado, CA chapter, where she provides youth space for conversation and sport. Jones works to keep her husband’s legacy living.
Both Lundy and Jones work to spread the message of perseverance, especially in the face of hardship, in addition to the TMF ethos of responsibility for others. “I hope to leave a legacy of never getting comfortable and never quitting. Always doing something for someone else, not being so comfortable about self, that you forget the people around you,” Lundy said. TMF is helping veterans and survivors turn tragedy into triumph, and reviving their sense of purpose by helping to develop strong character in our nation's youth.
Click here to learn more about UA Freedom and The Travis Manion Foundation.