U.S. Naval Academy graduate Travis Manion felt no bitterness when he was deployed to Iraq for the second time in 2006.
“If not me, who?” Manion said to family members who didn’t want to see him go.
Tragically, Manion was killed in the line of duty in April 2007, wounded by an enemy sniper while helping other injured troopers. They survived; he didn’t. Manion was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star with Valor.
It was those actions that inspired the beginning of the Travis Manion Foundation, which sponsors the 9/11 Heroes Run every Sept. 11—including an annual run in Annapolis, where Manion wrestled for the Naval Academy.
There are more than 50 Heroes Runs—which include a 5K and a 1-mile run/walk—across the country. Annapolis’ Heroes Run is the only one in Maryland.
“This is really all about the community coming together,” said Natanya Levioff, deputy race director for the Annapolis 9/11 Heroes Fun.
Levioff, the voice of Navy wrestling, was the announcer at Manion’s matches the whole four years he was at the Naval Academy. A longtime sponsor of midshipmen, Levioff became the unofficial team mom and got to know Manion well.
He was someone, she said, who had a commanding presence, but also knew when to be light-hearted.
“He was a prankster and a jokester,” she said.
The Doylestown, Pa. native enlisted in the Marines after graduation and ultimately served two tours of duty in Iraq.
“It was a calling for him,” Levioff said.
The 9/11 Heroes Run began in Annapolis in 2009, with three laps around the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and about 100 runners.
Seventeen Naval Academy graduates were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Last year, more than 1,200 runners participated—and this year, 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, race organizers are hoping to get 1,500 runners or more.
“I not only think we’re going to meet it, I think we’re going to exceed it,” Levioff said. “I’m looking forward to having a race that inspires people to come out and honor and remember.”
Josh Jabin, chief of staff for the Travis Manion Foundation, went to the Naval Academy with Manion. More than anything, he wants people to remember his friend’s willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Jabin said he knows Manion would be proud of the way the organization is honoring all those who have made that same sacrifice in the 15 years since 9/11.
The runs draw a diverse blend of people, from those who were in the military when the attacks happened, and children who weren’t even born or were too young to remember, he said.
“Just to be able to educate the youth about what happened on 9/11, that to me is the most special part of the day,” Jabin said.
The Annapolis 9/11 Heroes Run begins at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Walk up registration will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. inside the Class of 1953 pavilion.
To learn more about the Travis Manion Foundation, click here.