For DeMatha junior Michael Parker, visits to his Uncle Kevin and Aunt Maureen Looney’s Calvert County home while growing up meant lessons in tough love from his six older cousins.
Parker, nine years younger than the youngest of the Looneys’ three boys, relished the chance to play with the big kids. Brendan, Steve and Billy Looney — who each grew into athletic stars at DeMatha before becoming Navy lacrosse players — gave him the little brother treatment.
Often the lessons were subtle like an extra nudge when they included Parker in their backyard games. Sometimes they were a bit more extreme. At least once the brothers duct-taped the little boy with a penchant for spontaneously breaking into song to the wall in hopes of imparting a little of the edge that each of the Looneys brought to the field.
“It was really cool to grow up in the ‘Looney day care system,’” said Parker, who now plays soccer and lacrosse at the Hyattsville school.
Those fond memories are the ones that stick out the most when Parker thinks about Brendan Looney, a Navy SEAL who was among nine service members killed Sept. 21, 2010, in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan. That’s the person Parker wants people to remember when he and his DeMatha teammates take the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Friday to play LaSalle College High School (Pa.) in the inaugural Fallen Heroes Lacrosse Classic.
The game was organized to honor the memory of Looney and his former Naval Academy roommate and best friend First Lt. Travis Manion, who died in an April 2007 sniper attack during a tour in Iraq. The contest features the fallen soldiers’ alma maters on the field where Looney played two seasons for the Midshipman lacrosse team. It precedes a college game between Navy and the University of Maryland.
All proceeds benefit the Travis Manion Foundation, which provides college scholarships to promote leadership and aid to returning wounded veterans as well as families of fallen soldiers.
“A lot of people have seen different aspects of Brendan the last few months,” Parker said, “but now that the lacrosse community can see it too, I think will be a really cool experience for everybody.”
DeMatha Coach Scott Morrison said he’ll show his squad a few video clips of news coverage telling Looney and Manion’s story to help players better understand the game’s larger meaning. The best friends are buried in adjacent plots in Arlington National Cemetery.
For Parker, who attended many of Looney's Navy home games, it will be the latest chance to honor a role model taken away too soon. When the defensive midfielder plays on Friday, the “Team Brendan” t-shirt that Looney’s family and friends wore during October’s Marine Corps Marathon will be underneath his jersey. Behind that the little cousin will have on a St. Brendan medallion — honoring the patron saint of sea voyages — with the Naval emblem on the back that he now wears at all times.
“We all get caught up in our own little lacrosse worlds sometimes focusing during the season,” Morrison said, “but at the end of the day, there’s a bigger picture out there than wins and losses, and I hope that Friday will help my players get that message loud and clear.”