A devoted husband, son and brother, nearly 3,000 people mourned Navy SEAT Lt. Brendan Looney at his funeral Mass, Oct. 4. (CNS photo)

WASHINGTON — Navy SEAL Lt. Brendan Looney was remembered at his funeral Mass Oct. 4 as a loving and devoted husband, son and brother who died defending the country he loved.

Nearly 3,000 people, including family members, friends, fellow service members, U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen and current and former students at the Catholic high school he attended, packed the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington for the emotional liturgy.

The 29-year-old Looney was one of nine U.S. military personnel killed in a helicopter crash Sept. 21 in southern Afghanistan.

Looney, a native of Silver Spring, Md., was a 1999 graduate of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., and a 2004 graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. His younger brothers, Billy and Steve, also attended DeMatha and followed the elder Looney brother into the Naval Academy. All three were starters for the academy’s lacrosse team.

“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 released before the funeral. “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 and eight others were killed when the Blackhawk helicopter in which they were flying crashed in southern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. It was the deadliest such incident involving U.S. military personnel in four years. Looney had been scheduled to return to the United States Oct. 2.

The Navy announced Oct. 3 that Looney would receive the Bronze Star posthumously.

Msgr. Ralph Kuehner, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Washington and a longtime Looney family friend, was the principal celebrant of the Mass. Msgr. Kuehner had baptized each of the six Looney children.

Fr. Anuszewski told the Looney family that “it is quite natural to feel your home has been violated and a special treasure has been stolen from you” but urged them to “think of the joy Brendan brought into our lives, and how impoverished we would have been without this gift.”

“They are a gift from God, the years of joy Brendan brought into our lives as a brother, a son, a husband, a member of the DeMatha family and a member of the Naval Academy,” he said.

Calling Looney “a child of God and a disciple of Christ,” Fr. Anuszewski also told the grieving family to rely on their faith as they mourn their loss. “Loss and grief are realities of life, and no one is immune,” the priest said, “but, do we not believe there is life – eternal life – beyond the grave?”

“Brendan is enjoying see God face to face, and one day we will all have that same joy and experience,” Fr. Anuszewski said. “You and I need to rejoice and give thanks to God for the gift of Brendan. May his memory be eternal.”