As many people know, May is Military Appreciation Month. It is an opportunity to take time out of your day-to-day schedules and reflect on the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served this country and those who still do. Military Appreciation Month comes to a close with Memorial Day weekend (MDW). Our country has adopted MDW as the unofficial kickoff to summer. It’s a vacation weekend for most, filled with beach, beer, barbecues, family and friends. In the midst of all of our enjoyments, the meaning of Memorial Day is often times forgotten.
Many do not realize the level of sacrifice that our brave service men and women make for our country to protect our freedoms. Memorial Day is about showing your appreciation for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for something much bigger than themselves. The Purple Heart Foundation is proud to share Brendan Looney’s story and remember the brave sacrifice that he made for this country. We are grateful to have had the chance to speak with a few members of the Looney family, sisters Bridget and Kellie, and Father, Kevin Looney. They opened up and helped us get to know just who Brendan was. (All quotations are from family members.)
Brendan Looney was the oldest of six siblings, always looking out for his younger brothers and sisters. Family was extremely important to him. He was a natural leader, leading by example to those around him. This ability to lead translated over to his passion while growing up, sports. Brendan loved trying out different sports, and his work ethic and determination led him to succeed in most that he tried. Football and baseball were Brendan’s favorites, but after seeing his younger brothers play lacrosse he decided to take it up during his college years at the United States Naval Academy. Don’t let the casual nature of that sentence fool you, Brendan tried out and played on Navy’s nationally ranked team, and they went to the NCAA National Championship. Brendan always worked hard, striving to be the best in all that he did. “There wasn’t anything he shied away from or backed down from.”
Brendan’s hard work and determination ultimately transitioned to his commitment to serving this country. We asked the Looney family how Brendan made the decision to serve our country, and they explained that “Brendan’s decision to serve our country just sort of happened. He went to Navy because he wanted to play D1 football. To do that he had to get a waiver for Navy [due to color blindness]. He started at NAPS [Naval Academy Prep School] and continued onto the Academy.” In the fall of 2001 Brendan had just begun his sophomore year at the Naval Academy. The horrific terrorist attacks that occurred a few months into his sophomore year on 9/11 was what really pushed him to want and be more”. Brendan graduated from the Naval Academy and was commissioned as an Ensign. He began his naval career as an Intelligence officer. Brendan’s first deployment was to Korea and then Iraq. Upon his return he wanted to make a change, “he could have stayed in intel but to him that would have been the safe and easiest route. So, he felt the call to challenge himself.” Brendan went on to join the Navy SEALs.
Brendan earned a spot to attend Basic Underwater Demolition/Seal training, BUD/S. If you aren’t aware, BUD/S is considered the most demanding and grueling military training. Each training class starts with close to 300 men, and on average 10 men make it all the way through to graduation. “Brendan joined his fellow BUD/S selectees in Coronado, CA as part of Class 265 in 2007. Brendan graduated from BUD/S in June 2008 and was bestowed with the highest honor a BUD/S graduate can receive, being named “Honor Man.” This distinction is given to the best graduate in each class. Upon graduation from BUDS Brendan was assigned to SEAL Team THREE.”
Shortly after Brendan earned his SEAL Trident he married the love of his life. It was just two days after the wedding that Brendan was deployed to Iraq. When he returned from this deployment, it was a short turnaround time before he left for his third, and final deployment. Brendan was a Troop Commander for this deployment and was responsible for developing strategies. “What he loved about serving was the challenge. It really was about making him the best he could be. He also felt a sense that this was his way to give back and it was him again protecting his family.” During this deployment, Brendan and his SEAL Team THREE brothers completed 59 missions in less than seven months. Brendan’s Commanding Officer wrote that “his great qualities as a man and a diplomat ensured the delivery of humanitarian assistance and medical treatment for children and a representative governance to an embattled society.”
Ten days prior to Brendan’s expected return to the States, his SEAL team’s helicopter went down in the mountains of Afghanistan. “On that day, Brendan gave his best self to our country. He was 29.”
“His legacy was his life. His life was his gift”
Brendan’s service, dedication and sacrifice to this country did not go unrecognized. His military awards and commendations include a Bronze Star with Valor, Navy Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, Navy and Marine Corp Achievement Medal. Brendan was given “full military honors and is interred with his fellow brothers-in-arms at Arlington National Cemetery. His grave is alongside his fellow fallen hero and USNA roommate Travis Manion. He truly lived a life of service before self”.
Brendan is a hero. He gave everything for this country.
The Looney family remains very connected to the military. They have many family members who proudly serve this country. Brendan’s Mom, Maureen Looney, created the Brendan Looney Foundation; which “ultimately became a way for our family to thank all those brave men and women who have heard the call to serve and help aid them through supporting their sons and daughters. Although we cannot help everyone we try to help, one kid/one family at a time.” On Memorial Day to honor Brendan’s memory the Looney family visits Arlington National Cemetery and participates in a group workout, or something that will challenge them.
So, while you enjoy this long weekend alongside of your family and friends, remember the sacrifices that have been made so that you are free to do so. Realize that every moment is a gift, and one that has been and is currently being protected by the brave men and women who serve our country, and the heroes like Brendan Looney who have given everything. Take a minute to say thank you, not just on Memorial Day, but every day. There may be just one day set aside for remembering our fallen heroes, but that will never be enough.