Silver Spring woman to honor fallen son on Memorial Day

May 25, 2011

Maureen Looney goes to Arlington National Cemetery at least once a month for the serenity it offers: knowing that her son is buried there alongside thousands of fellow fallen soldiers.

“When you go out there, it’s just such a calming feeling to know that they’re all there, that such a great number of them are together,” said the Silver Spring resident.

Her son, Navy Lt. Brendan Looney, was 29 when he was among nine service members killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Sept. 21. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to his friend and former roommate, Travis Manion, who was killed in Iraq in 2007.

Maureen Looney, her husband and two of her daughters will be at the cemetery Monday, remembering not just her son and his friend, but all those who gave their lives defending America.

“We’re not just remembering Brendan, but the rest of our soldiers who have given their lives,” she said.

Brendan Looney was a 1999 graduate of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, where he played varsity baseball and football. During high school, he balanced athletics with honors classes and a job as an office aide, spending one class period a day running errands for the main office, according to Tom Ponton, the director of development for the high school.

After graduating high school, Looney enrolled at the Naval Academy. He played football for a year before switching to lacrosse and, in 2004, played alongside his younger brothers, Stephen and Billy, on the Navy team that went to the national championship against Syracuse, Ponton said.

Brendan Looney was commissioned as an intelligence officer and later redesignated as a SEAL, which is a special operations force of the Navy. It was a life path he planned to continue, Maureen Looney said.

“In the weeks before he was killed, he had just re-upped for another five years in the military, which to me . . . says how much he believed in what he was doing and what they were accomplishing,” she said. “He just wanted to make sure that the fight stayed away from his family [and] keep it out of the U.S.”

While in the Navy, Looney spent time in Virginia and Korea and lived in San Diego with his wife, Amy, before he was deployed. He went on four deployments to the Middle East and was scheduled to return to the United States about 10 days after the fatal crash.

Brendan Looney kept quiet about his work, both for national security reasons and so his family wouldn’t worry, his mother said. He often would lie to his family to keep them from losing sleep.

“When he was saying things were dull, they actually weren’t that dull,” she said. “He was just trying to protect us from knowing and keep us from worrying, not that we didn’t worry for him every day.”

In the days leading up to the crash, Looney called his mother every day.

She could sometimes tell when her son was tired or when he was pumped up after a successful mission, even though he couldn’t talk about it, she said

Looney always kept in close contact with his family while deployed, his mother said. He is survived by his wife, Amy; his parents, Kevin and Maureen; his younger brothers, Stephen and Billy; and his three younger sisters, Bridget, Erin and Kellie.

The family established a scholarship fund at DeMatha in Brendan Looney’s name. His family also supports the Travis Manion Foundation, named for Looney’s former roommate.

The National Memorial Day Observance starts at 10:30 a.m. Monday with a prelude by the U.S. Marine Band in the Arlington National Cemetery’s amphitheater. Attendees are encouraged to be at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or seated in the amphitheater by 9:30 a.m. For details, visit www.arlingtoncemetery.mil.

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