Action News' TaRhonda Thomas, Bucks County woman share their brothers' legacies on Memorial Day

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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Action News' TaRhonda Thomas, Bucks County woman share their brothers' legacies on Memorial Day
Action News' TaRhonda Thomas, Bucks County woman share their brothers' legacies on Memorial Day

DOYLESTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Memorial Day is a time to reflect on those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.

However, that type of reflection happens every day for Gold Star Families, including Action News' TaRhonda Thomas, a Gold Star Sister.

It's a distinction she shares with Ryan Manion, whose brother Travis Manion, was killed in service in 2007.

His loss inspired the family to create the Travis Manion Foundation.

"You and I are in a club that no one wants to be in," TaRhonda said to Ryan as the two sat down in her home.

"I say that all the time," said Ryan.

The sisterhood was forged by the sacrifice of their brothers.

"They died in the most honorable way that you can. And so for me, I hold on to that when I'm at my lowest moments and I'm struggling," said Ryan.

Chief Warrant Officer II Terry Thomas died in service in 2006, just seven months before 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion of Doylestown was killed.

Ryan remembers her little brother as a big role model.

"He was my built-in best friend," said Ryan of her and her brother's bond.

She said they moved frequently due to their father's service in the Marine Corps.

"I remember at a very young age looking up to (Travis) and being very in awe of the goals he set," she said. "He graduated from La Salle College High School in 1999 and went to the Naval Academy. When they graduated from the Naval Academy, they could either do the Navy or Marine Corps. Travis went Marine Corps."

Terry and Travis both completed deployments to Iraq. During Travis' second deployment, he was hit by enemy fire while saving fellow Marines.

Ryan remembers receiving the news like it was yesterday.

"(We were) in this house right here," she said, pointing to the front door. "Two Marines came to the door, and my mom slammed the door in their face because when they walked up, she knew what they were here to say. It was the worst day of our lives."

"How do you get from the knock (at the door) to where you are now?" TaRhonda asked Ryan, who recalled her father pulling her and her mother aside on the day of Travis' funeral.

"He said we need to make a commitment that we are going to continue Travis' legacy and his life of service," she answered.

The family has done just that through the Travis Manion Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at keeping the focus on veterans and families of the fallen.

"We've become one of the largest veterans service organizations in the country," said Ryan, adding that their hallmark is a program called Character Does Matter.

"We actually train veterans to go out and mentor our nation's youth," she said. "We've had over 600,000 students across the country go through this program."

The program helps veterans who may struggle with civilian life by letting them know they are still very much valued and needed.

"It's important for kids to know and understand what service and sacrifice is," she said, noting the important examples veterans set.

"It brings it back to all of these men and women who raise their right hand every day. And there are so few of them," she said.

The foundation also offers support to Gold Star Families who are often painfully reminded of their losses on Memorial Day.

"For me, this week is always difficult," said TaRhonda. "What's it like for you?"

"I actually take a different approach to it," said Ryan. "I say go to the barbecue, go to the beach, go to the pool, but also understand why this weekend exists."

It's because of the sacrifice of people like their brothers.

"When you get back to how Travis died, how your brother died, we have to live lives worthy of their sacrifices," Ryan said to TaRhonda.

She urges everyone to find other stories of the fallen and share them, especially during Memorial Day.

"Just find a story and share it," she said, "because we want to make sure that their stories live on. We have an obligation to do that."

For more on Travis Manion Foundation, visit