Barack Obama spent this past Veterans Day volunteering in DC with the Travis Manion Foundation, a group started after the deaths of First Lt. Travis Manion and Navy SEAL Lt. Brendan Looney. Manion and Looney were best friends at the US Naval Academy. Manion died in Iraq in 2007, and Looney died in Afghanistan in 2010.
From November 10-19, the foundation hosted Operation Legacy, a series of 30 to 40 projects occurring across the country. One was held at DC’s Langston Community Resident Council and organized in partnership with other veteran-service organizations, including Team Rubicon, the Mission Continues, and Team Red White & Blue, and the Mayor’s Office of Veteran Affairs. The event aimed to refurbish recreational areas, clean offices, and restock food pantries. There were approximately 250 volunteers in attendance. Though the foundation’s volunteers knew there would be a dignitary present, they were not told it would be the former President.
On Friday, November 10, Obama showed up with food for the pantry, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work with the rest of the volunteers, helping to sand down boards and prep for the refurbishment event the following day. He also addressed the volunteers present, commenting on the assets that veterans continue to be, even in civilian life.
“He was very sincere and very heartfelt and you could tell that he wasn’t there for photo ops, he wasn’t there for FaceTime. It was literally he was there because he wanted to be there and he wanted to make a difference in the community,” says Derrick Morgan, the foundation’s director of marketing.
Though this Veteran’s Day was Obama’s first time volunteering with the Travis Manion Foundation, he had been aware of its impact and mission for quite some time. He recognized Travis and Brendan in his 2011 Memorial Day speech and invited Travis’s sister, Ryan Manion, and Brendan’s wife, Amy Looney, to celebrate Memorial Day 2016 with him at the White House.