Legacy of Navy Lt. (SEAL) Brendan Looney lives on at his alma mater, DeMatha
May 25, 2020
Throughout the years since Navy Lt. (SEAL) Brendan Looney was killed in a helicopter crash during a mission in Afghanistan, many tributes and accolades have been bestowed posthumously upon him. As Memorial Day approaches and the 10th anniversary of his death draws near, his dad, Kevin Looney, said of those honors perhaps the most meaningful one is the Convocation Center at DeMatha Catholic High School being named in honor of his fallen son, a 1999 graduate of the Hyattsville school.
“That was so special. I think that was the biggest honor we’ve received,” said Kevin Looney, a 1974 DeMatha graduate, whose family has longtime ties to the all-boys high school. Brendan Looney’s two younger brothers, Billy and Steve, his cousins and uncles were also graduates of DeMatha. Brendan’s mother, Maureen Looney, who died in 2015, worked for many years in the school's development office. The Lt. (SEAL) Brendan Looney ’99 Convocation Center – a 72,000 square-foot building where sporting events, school-wide Masses, classes and other ceremonies are held on campus – opened in 2010 and was dedicated to the former Navy SEAL in 2014.
The oldest of the Looney’s six children, Brendan Looney grew up in Owings, Maryland, and attended St. Mary’s School in Bryantown. He later moved with his family to Silver Spring and became a standout scholar and athlete at DeMatha, where he ran track and played baseball and football. He helped lead DeMatha to the WCAC football title in an undefeated season during his senior year.
Kevin Looney said Brendan’s Catholic faith was very important throughout his son’s life. He also recalls Brendan’s selflessness and strong work ethic as an older brother, student and teammate, qualities that propelled him to excel on the field and off. He said his son would come home late after a long day at school and sports practice and still run more drills. “He always said come the fourth quarter, he wanted to be ready,” said Kevin Looney.
After receiving a special waiver due to his color blindness, Brendan Looney went on to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, where he first played football and later lacrosse. His two younger brothers joined him at the Naval Academy, where all three brothers played lacrosse together for one year, losing in the 2004 NCAA National Championship game by one point in overtime. After his graduation, he worked as a Navy intelligence officer, but later received another waiver and became the first color blind Navy SEAL. “Brendan always had to work harder, but he didn’t worry about it. He loved working hard,” said Kevin Looney.
On Sept. 21, 2010, 29-year-old Brendan Looney and eight others were killed when the Blackhawk helicopter in which they were flying crashed in southern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. It was a mission Looney did not have to be on, but decided to go to assist a friend, who was just starting his deployment. After completing 59 previous SEAL Team 3 missions, Brendan was looking forward to finishing his deployment and returning to the United States on Oct. 2.
"Brendan made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the ideals of our nation, while doing a job he loved, and while serving with people he loved," the Looney family said in a statement at the time of his passing. "Although his life was tragically cut short, his spirit will live on in his family and friends and the brave men and women who served by his side until his passing."
Looney received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor posthumously. His funeral Mass was celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and he is interred at Arlington National Cemetery. His grave is next to his Naval Academy roommate, Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, also a fallen hero who was killed in Iraq in 2007. At the time of his death, Brendan Looney was survived by his wife, Amy, whom he had married just before his deployment to Iraq; his parents; his two brothers and his three sisters.
During the past decade, a number of tributes in Brendan Looney’s honor and memory have included: a plaza at the Naval Academy Preparatory School, Newport, Rhode Island, dedicated in his name; at the the annual Army-Navy football game, a Navy player wears a patch from Brendan's SEAL Team, as well as each year, a key leader on the Navy lacrosse team wears #40 (Brendan's old number) in his memory; a road sign leading into the city of Annapolis was erected last year in Brendan's name; a golf tournament co-sponsored by lacrosse alumni of the Naval Academy is held annually; and DeMatha names annual recipients of the Lt. Brendan ’99 and Maureen Looney Memorial Scholarship.
Kevin Looney said it gives him great solace seeing Brendan’s name live on in the many honors bestowed and knowing his son’s memory and service will never be forgotten. He also believes Brendan would be humble about the tributes and would want to acknowledge all those who have served and all who sacrificed their lives on behalf of the United States before and after his death.
Trinitarian Father James Day, president of DeMatha, said Looney’s impact on the school community to this day cannot be overstated. “The influence and presence of Brendan Looney is so strong. It’s like he is still here on campus,” said the priest, adding that Brendan’s motto – “Be strong. Be accountable. Never complain.” – continues to resonate among the students, faculty, staff and the Trinitarians, the school’s founding religious order which sponsors DeMatha and serves there. “It speaks volumes about him as a person. Goodness transcends death and (Brendan’s) goodness is still very much alive.”
The latest local and global Catholic news delivered to your inbox.