Warrior’s Compassion Continues To Inspire
By Amy Looney, published by The San Diego Union-Tribune, Sept. 19, 2012.
When it comes to understanding the daily sacrifices of our nation’s military families, some Americans are in need of a wake-up call. Mine came two years ago, and it was one I will never forget.
On the other end of the phone was my husband, Lt. Brendan Looney, a Navy SEAL serving in Afghanistan. While his day on the battlefield was wrapping up, my morning in San Diego was just beginning. But nothing compared to waking up to the sound of his kind, gentle voice.
Brendan was excited, as the end of another combat deployment was near. We had all sorts of plans for when he got home, including taking a long overdue vacation. While Brendan was passionate about serving overseas, he was ready to trade southern Afghanistan’s mountains for Southern California’s palm trees.
I rarely spoke to my husband more than once a day while he was deployed, but Brendan called back several times before that day was over. He was so happy. About 15 hours after our last communication, though, there was silence.
The stillness was broken when I was told that my husband was dead. Before I could blink, life as I knew it had vanished.
In the two years since the Sept. 21, 2010, helicopter crash that killed Brendan and eight of his Navy and Army brothers, I have tried to live my life in a way that honors my husband and his fellow troops.
I also want Americans to know that while Brendan was most certainly a warrior, he was also a kindhearted 29-year-old man who cared a great deal about America and the countries he visited.
Brendan, like so many American heroes I’ve had the honor of knowing, was full of compassion. He didn’t only risk his life during combat missions; he also put himself in peril to shield civilians. Seeing the plight of children in Afghanistan and Iraq impacted my husband profoundly, and Brendan did all he could to help them.
Lt. Brendan Looney was proof that one could be a warrior for freedom and ambassador of kindness at the same time. By following the selfless examples set by courageous men and women who volunteer to serve, many of the world’s problems might not seem as impossible to solve.
To honor the memory of my husband on the second anniversary of his death, I plan to perform 10 random acts of kindness. One will be a group of us dropping off canned goods and food to a San Diego homeless shelter. Another will be donating arts and crafts to the family waiting room of the labor and delivery floor at Naval Medical Center San Diego in Balboa Park.
To honor the memory of all our fallen heroes and show support for their families, I would like to challenge every American to perform 10 acts of kindness before 2012 concludes. By uniting during such divided times, we can show the world that America is still the world’s brightest light.
Over the last two years, there have been periods of darkness in my life. But every day, I am inspired by families of our fallen service members, including Brendan’s parents, three sisters, two brothers and their wives. To further his legacy, they have established the Brendan Looney ’99 Memorial Scholarship Fund at his alma mater, DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md.
The family of fallen Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, who was killed in Iraq on April 29, 2007, also inspires me. Travis was Brendan’s roommate at the U.S. Naval Academy, and is buried beside my husband at Arlington National Cemetery. Travis’ mother, Janet Manion, who recently died of cancer, formed the Travis Manion Foundation to assist families of the fallen and veterans.
Your support of causes and organizations such as the scholarship fund and the foundation, which has an office in San Diego, is also a way to honor and support our military community.
Most importantly, let’s come together and be kind. If my husband and thousands of men and women like him can perform acts of compassion in the middle of hot spots around the world, being selfless at home is a mission we can surely accomplish.
I wish I could wake up tomorrow morning to the sound of my husband’s voice. But every day, I think of those last phone calls, and how much Brendan enjoyed making everyone around him smile. Hopefully, I will honor him by carrying on his thoughtful mission.
I love you, Brendan.
Looney is the widow of Lt. Brendan Looney and director of the Travis Manion Foundation’s San Diego office.
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US Navy Lieutenant Brendan Looney played three years of varsity football and two years of varsity baseball at DeMatha, a private all-boys high school in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC where his Irish-American mother (of six), Maureen, has long been employed in the school’s development office. A wide receiver and defensive back on the football team, he was named DeMatha’s most valuable player his senior year after leading the squad to a 12-0 record and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title. He was also on the school’s lacrosse team. Looney’s two younger brothers also graduated from DeMatha, and the three brothers started on the US Naval Academy lacrosse team that lost in the NCAA tournament national championship game in 2004. Brendan was also on the Naval Academy’s football team. At graduation from the Naval Academy Looney was commissioned as an intelligence officer and later became a Navy SEAL.
US Marine Corps Lieutenant Travis Manion attended La Salle College, a private all-boys high school in Philadelphia; he played lacrosse in high school and wrestled at Navy. Looney and Manion attended two really great all-boys schools and were roommates at Annapolis. Both Irish-Americans were Real Men, in every sense of the title. They stood for something of value, and they are missed; we desperately need many more such men. Both of their memorial funds are worthy causes indeed.
Addendum. Brendan Looney’s mother, Maureen, succumbed to cancer in February 2015. As a student at a nearby girl’s high school, she had been a cheerleader for DeMatha’s 1973-75 football team on which her future husband, Kevin, played. Several of her brothers were also DeMatha graduates, as were her three sons and several nephews. She was truly a great Irish-American lady who will be so missed by so many.