On April 6, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation presented War Horse founder Thomas Brennan with the 2023 Gen. John A. Lejeune Award for Exceptional Leadership, making him the first enlisted Marine veteran to earn the recognition.
“Your important work with mental health in the military, founding of War Horse, and your role in key military-themed discussions all show your commitment and passion for the Marine Corps and show distinct leadership in your field,” wrote James W. Lukeman, a retired major general and the president of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, in a letter to The War Horse.
“This recognition is afforded for demonstrated leadership in your chosen profession, appointed or elected position that is clearly exemplary and worthy of emulation,” according to the award description. Recipients must demonstrate leadership “that is clearly exemplary and worthy of emulation”; “epitomize the core values of honor, courage, and commitment and practice the leadership traits and principles ascribed to by the United States Marine Corps.”
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The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, hosted the event on April 29. Past recipients include revered Marine veterans like Sen. John Glenn, Gen. Joseph Dunford, Sec. James Mattis, and others. Appointed and elected officials who have received the award include former secretaries of state Condoleeza Rice and George P. Schultz, as well as George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States.
“Enlisting in the Corps and leading Marines in combat not only inspired my career as a military reporter but cemented my decision to live a life of public service,” said Thomas Brennan, who served as an infantryman in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I am humbled and grateful to become the first enlisted Marine to receive the Gen. John A. Lejeune Award. Thank you to the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation board of directors for this incredible honor.”
During the ceremony, Brennan’s guests included his family, friends, and the Marines he served alongside in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with members of The War Horse team.
“Gen. William T. Sherman once wrote, ‘If I had my choice, I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast,’” War Horse managing editor Kelly Kennedy said about Brennan’s award. “Thomas turned the idea on its head by serving first in the Marine Corps, and then creating a newsroom that exists, in large part, to look after those very same service members. It doesn’t get more Semper Fi than that.”
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