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Event Summary

Memorial Day challenges the American people to ask whether the sacrifices made in defense of the country entail any correlating duty on their part. On Thursday, scholars gathered with author Tom Sileo and General John Allen, USMC (Ret.), at AEI to discuss this question in the context of “Brothers Forever,” a book about a fallen US Marine and a fallen US Navy SEAL who lie buried side by side in Arlington National Cemetery.

As AEI’s Leon Kass noted in his introduction, individual citizens ought to learn the stories of the men and women who sacrificed their lives for their country and then be inspired to action in their own lives. Sileo detailed the story of these two men, whose heroic actions came from their sense of personal responsibility and dedication to their country. “If not us, then who?” was their motto in all things.

Invoking his decades in uniform, Gen. Allen observed that the current generation of soldiers is “the new ‘Greatest Generation,’” arguing that today’s warfare requires the same courage that it took for soldiers in WWI to emerge from the trenches. Allen contended that this courage, character, and heroism can bring about only positive effects in society and politics when military personnel exchange the uniform for civilian life.
— Rebecca Burgess

Event Description

A fallen US Marine lies buried next to a fallen US Navy SEAL, his friend and former Naval Academy roommate, in Arlington Cemetery. Both young men gave the last full measure of devotion in answering their country’s post-9/11 call. In this AEI Program on American Citizenship event, award-winning author Tom Sileo will discuss with AEI’s Gary Schmitt the friendship and heroism of Travis Manion and Brendan Looney as recounted in Sileo’s new coauthored book, “Brothers Forever” (Da Capo Press, 2014).

Following this discussion, Gen. John Allen will sit down with AEI’s Thomas Donnelly to talk about the significance of Memorial Day, the day we honor and remember those who gave their lives in defense of our country, those who have served, and those who are still serving.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


9:45 AM

10:00 AM
Leon R. Kass, AEI

Panel I: A “Brothers Forever” book conversation
Gary J. Schmitt, AEI
Tom Sileo, Author of “Brothers Forever”

11:00 AM
Panel II: The significance of Memorial Day
General John Allen, US Marine Corps (ret.)
Thomas Donnelly, AEI

12:00 PM
Adjournment and Luncheon

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Rebecca Burgess at [email protected], 202.419.5208.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

General John R. Allen served in a variety of command and staff positions in the US Marine Corps and the Joint Forces during his nearly 38-year military career.  From 2011 to 2013, before retiring from the Marine Corps, he commanded the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, a NATO-led coalition of four dozen countries. Before assuming command of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Allen commanded at every level in the Marine Corps through Marine Expeditionary Brigade.  As a general officer, he also served as the principal director of Asia-Pacific policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and, before taking command of ISAF, was deputy commander, US Central Command.  Gen. Allen’s operations assignments included Operation Joint Endeavor in the Balkans from 1995 to 1996, Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq from 2007 to 2008, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013. He has led a number of professional military education programs, including serving as the director of the Marine Infantry Officer Program, commanding officer of the Marine Corps Basic School, and commandant of midshipmen in the US Naval Academy.  Gen. Allen’s decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and the Legion of Merit with three Gold Stars, in addition to numerous foreign awards.

Thomas Donnelly is a defense and security policy analyst and codirector of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI. He is the coauthor, with Frederick W. Kagan, of “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010). Among his recent books are “Ground Truth: The Future of U.S. Land Power” (AEI Press, 2008), also coauthored with Frederick W. Kagan; “Of Men and Materiel: The Crisis in Military Resources” (AEI Press, 2007), coedited with Gary J. Schmitt; “The Military We Need” (AEI Press, 2005); and “Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Strategic Assessment” (AEI Press, 2004). From 1995 to 1999, he was policy group director and a professional staff member for the US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services. Donnelly also served as a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He is a former editor of Armed Forces Journal, Army Times, and Defense News.

Leon R. Kass, MD, is the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago, and is the Madden-Jewett Chair at AEI. He was the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2005. He has been engaged for more than 40 years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advances and, more recently, with broader moral and cultural issues. His most recent book, “What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song” (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2011), seeks to promote American identity, character, and citizenship. Along with coeditors Amy Kass and Diana Schaub, Dr. Kass has expanded this project by creating video discussions and curricula materials that demonstrate how short stories can be used to enhance our understanding of the meaning of America.

Gary J. Schmitt is codirector of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI and the director of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship. Schmitt is a former staff director of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He was executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board during former president Ronald Reagan’s second term. Schmitt’s security work focuses on longer-term strategic issues that will affect America’s security at home and its ability to lead abroad, while his work in the area of citizenship focuses on challenges to maintaining and sustaining a strong civic culture in America. His books include “Safety, Liberty and Islamist Terrorism: American and European Approaches to Domestic Counterterrorism” (AEI Press, 2010), “The Rise of China: Essays on the Future Competition” (Encounter Books, 2009), “Of Men and Materiel: The Crisis in Military Resources” (AEI Press, 2007), “Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence” (Potomac Books Inc., 2002), and “U.S. Intelligence at the Crossroads: Agendas for Reform” (Brassey’s Inc., 1995).

Tom Sileo is a nationally syndicated columnist and coauthor of “Brothers Forever: The Enduring Bond between a Marine and a Navy SEAL that Transcended their Ultimate Sacrifice” (Da Capo Press, 2014). Sileo’s weekly newspaper column has been distributed by Creators Syndicate since 2011, the same year he joined the Travis Manion Foundation. Previously, Sileo spent almost five years as a copyeditor for CNN. He also worked at the United Service Organizations, Associated Press, Tribune, WSPA-TV, and WTVM-TV. He is a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow and recipient of three consecutive awards for best military blog run by a US reporter.

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