Celebrating Veterans: Stronger Communities Are Built on the Bedrock of Personal Character
Under Armour continues its support of the Travis Manion Foundation with a new For the Heroes collection by Project Rock
This Veterans Day is the first in two decades that the United States is not at war, but the essential mission of supporting veterans and families of fallen heroes carries on in communities across the country. Under Armour embraces this mission with its continued support of the Travis Manion Foundation, which strives to create thriving communities built on the bedrock of personal character and purpose-driven individuals.
Powered by Under Armour Freedom, the Travis Manion Foundation’s Character Does Matter program has connected more than 2,000 veteran mentors with more than 400,000 kids across all 50 states over the past two years. Veteran mentors receive training, support, and materials from the Travis Manion Foundation to bring a research-based character curriculum to schools, youth groups, and sports teams at no cost.
“With continued investment and growth, Character Does Matter will become the premier character-development program available to schools and youth throughout the country within the next few years,” says Ryan Manion, president of the Travis Manion Foundation and the older sister of Travis, a Marine who died in combat in 2007.
To support the Travis Manion Foundation, Dwayne Johnson and Under Armour have released Project Rock’s For the Heroes collection, an annual brand initiative that honors veterans’ service and sacrifices. The collection, which includes new pieces for men, women, and youth, is available at UA.com, Under Armour Brand Houses, and select global retailers.
“It’s really amazing to recognize those who are continuing to serve even outside of uniform. These heroes walk among us every single day and they inspire us to follow in their footsteps with the same sense of service, character and leadership,” Johnson says. “The work TMF does with veterans and families of the fallen, providing them with personal development training and experiences, repurposing their leadership to continue serving in their local community—especially to mentor and serve the next generation—is so critically important.”
On April 29, 2007, 1stLt Travis Manion was searching a suspected insurgent house in the Al Anbar province of Iraq when his patrol was ambushed. As he drew fire away from wounded teammates to save their lives, Manion was fatally shot by a sniper. Posthumously awarded a Silver Star and Bronze Star with valor, his legacy lives on in his namesake foundation—and in his famous mantra about service: “If not me, then who . . .”
Those words still echo as the guiding principle of the Character Does Matter program, which utilizes informal discussions and activity-based lessons to provide instruction and insights to the next generation.
“So many kids, one in three, in fact, will grow up without a positive role model or mentor in their lives,” says Johnson. “TMF is boldly taking this issue head-on, connecting youth in need with a military veteran who personally knows the value of character, service, and connecting with others to make a difference.”
Character Does Matter gives veterans both a renewed sense of purpose and new-found camaraderie while enabling students to discover their personal character strengths and apply those values to their lives. Of the kids who have participated in the program: 83% feel a greater sense of purpose through serving others; 84% have a better understanding of their personal character strengths; and 85% experience improved relationships.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the youth when people say things like, ‘Well, youth aren’t like what they use to be,’ or, ‘We’re in real trouble . . .’ but they all have their own individual stories,” says Jeff Schuh, a 16-year Marine veteran and Travis Manion Foundation mentor who works with kids in Atlanta. “Sometimes young adults, young kids, they are seen but not heard, and if we just take a few extra minutes to ask them questions and to hear them, I think there would be some profound things.”
Vishal Amin, who spent 21 years flying fighter jets and working on strategic projects in the Marine Corps, has been involved with the Travis Manion Foundation since 2015. “One of my close friends passed away in an F-18 crash in Europe and I was the casualty officer to go tell his family,” he says. “After that I got involved with the foundation and supporting families of the fallen and Gold Star Families. During this time I got involved with a lot of the TFM programming, like Character Does Matter.”
Amin often shares his own story of perseverance, from being bullied in the hallways of his middle school to his untimely retirement from the Marine Corps due to a nation state threatening him and his family. “The Travis Manion Foundation, specifically its Character Does Matter program, has provided me purpose, value, and the ability to not just empower others but to find meaning in my life outside the Marine Corps,” he says.
A current theme of the Character Does Matter program, says Ryan Manion, is bridging gaps in communities to make them more vibrant, inclusive places. They are bridges that will ultimately reflect the strength of personal character and the lessons taught by mentors to younger generations.
“In these divisive times, we need leaders with a track record of forming cohesive teams to help unite our small towns and communities,” Manion says. “Veterans are among the most diverse Americans coming from all parts of the country, ethnicities, religions, political beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds. We leverage those differences as force multipliers making us all better.”