Book Review: Brothers Forever: The Enduring Bond Between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended Their Ultimate Sacrifice by Thomas Manion

Four weeks after Navy SEALs had killed Osama bin Laden, the President of the United States stood in Arlington National Cemetery. In his Memorial Day address, he extolled the courage and sacrifice of the two young men buried side by side in the graves before him: Travis Manion, a fallen US Marine, and Brendan Looney, a fallen US Navy SEAL. Although they were killed three years apart, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, these two best friends and former roommates were now buried together—“brothers forever.”

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 defined a generation’s sacrifice after 9/11, and how Travis and Brendan’s loved ones overcame heartbreak to carry on in their memory. From Travis’s incredible heroism on the streets of Fallujah to Brendan’s anguished Navy SEAL training in the wake of his friend’s death and his own heroism in the mountains of Afghanistan,
Brothers Forever is a remarkable story of friendship, family, and war.

Release Date: May 13, 2014
Age Group: Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley
Reviewed By: Kelli

Brothers Forever is not a typical read for me, but in honor of Memorial Day, I decided to accept it for review.  I was intrigued by Travis and Brendan's stories and liked the fact that Travis' father, a retired Marine, wrote the book.

It took me a little bit (probably 20% of the book) to really get invested in the story, because there was a lot of back story for both men.  But once I got to know Travis and Brendan, there was no way I could put this book down.  

Brothers Forever is told in the third person, with Travis' father as the narrator.  I have such great respect for Colonel Manion, having the fortitude to write the story of his son's military career, and eventual death.  I admired Colonel Manion for telling Travis and Brendan's stories, working through his grief over losing his son, in order to educate the American people about exactly what the members of our military go through to keep us safe.  I loved knowing exactly how Travis felt about being a Marine, and how he never gave his willingness to sacrifice his life for the American people a second thought.  It was just second nature to him.  

One of my favorite parts of Brothers Forever occurs when Travis is at a NFL game.  He looks around at the crowded stadium and reflects that he would die for each and every person in the stadium, to keep them safe.  Travis' devotion to preserving America's freedoms and people was incredibly poignant, and so heartfelt that it brought me to tears.  How many of us could say the same?  Not many, in my opinion.  Reading Brothers Forever gave me an even greater level of respect for our armed forces.

I liked that both Brendan and Travis' tours in Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan were told in so much detail.  I had no idea the kinds of things our soldiers go through, and both men's bravery, strength, and sacrifice just blew me away.  The details of their day to day lives while in service overseas made Brothers Forever fascinating for me.    

Even though I knew going in that Brothers Forever was about two fallen heroes, and therefore I knew both Travis and Brendan were going to die in the course of the book, that knowledge didn't stop me from crying my eyes out when each passed on.  Their families' grief was palpable, and I could feel my heart actually ache for those the heroes left behind.

I loved the epilogue, especially how Colonel Manion describes how the two families have honored Travis and Brendan by living their lives to the fullest and serving others.  The Manions created the Travis Manion Foundation to provide families of fallen soldiers with assistance and support.  Many of the Looney family members, including Brendan's wife, Amy, have run the Marine Corps Marathon every year in honor of Brendan.  Janet, Travis' mom, created the Character Does Matter program, "which empowers veterans and families of the fallen to deliver inspirational presentations to emerging leaders."    

Some of my favorite quotes from Brothers Forever:
Travis Manion: "If not me, then who..."
Brendan Looney: "Be strong.  Be accountable.  Never complain."  "I DON'T QUIT."

I'd recommend Brothers Forever to anyone.  It's a well-written, inspiring story, and it's not one I'll ever forget. 

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