Veteran Voices Episode 11

“I would say that if you walked away with anything to know about Brendan, it was that he gave everything that he put his heart and his effort into 110%. He never left anything feeling as if it was short changed or handled incorrectly. He always really thrived on stepping out of his comfort zone. And he used to tell me that, you know, he’s like you always grow more as a person when you take a leap of faith and step out and do something that isn’t comfortable for you. And I never, I never really understood what he meant by that. I think I got the concept, but I didn’t really understand that until I lived that experience by really stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to navigate and handle my life journey after his loss.”

-Amy Looney Heffernan, VP of Travis Manion Foundation


In this episode of the newly re-launched Veteran Voices series, welcomes Amy Looney Heffernan and Kevin Horgan to the Veteran Voices podcast.

Scott Luton (00:05):

Welcome to veteran voices, a podcast dedicated to giving a voice to those that have served in our country’s armed forces on this series, which is part of the supply chain. Now family of programming, we sit down with a wide variety of veterans and veteran advocates to gain their insights, perspective, and experiences. We’ll talk with many individuals about their challenging transition from active duty to the private sector, and we’ll discuss some of the most vital issues facing veterans today. Join us for this episode of veteran voices. Hey, good afternoon, Scott Luton here with you on veteran voices. I’m joined by my esteemed cohost Kevin Horgan. Kevin is a Marine and retired ups, or he’s also on the leadership team over at vet Atlanta, who we’re partnering with on today’s episode, you can learn more about vet Hey Kevin, how you doing? Good, Scott, how are you?

Scott Luton (01:11):

You know, we’ve had a great week and I’m really excited about the, the, uh, interview we’ve got lined up here with a special guest, and I know you are too, so with no further ado, uh, we’re delighted to have Amy loony Heffernan joining us today as our special guest. Amy is author of the knock at the door three gold star families bonded by grief and purpose, which is a wonderful, very powerful book. Amy is the widow of Lieutenant Brendan Looney, a Navy seal who was killed in Afghanistan in September, 2010. She’s also the vice president of the Travis Mannion foundation and lives in Washington, D C, where she runs the foundation’s regional office there. Amy, great to have you with us here today. Thank you, Scott. And thank you, Kevin. I’m just excited to have the opportunity to share more about the work we do and a little bit more about my story.

Scott Luton (02:04):

So thank you words. Don’t do it justice, but you know, thank you to your family, you and your family for all of your enormous contributions to our country. And again, honored to have you as a special guest on this show. Okay, so Kevin, you might have a few opening remarks before you dive into our first question with Amy and thank you, got to appreciate that any of this very special to have you here today, there really is a significant bond between Atlanta and the Travis Manion foundation dating back to nearly the beginning of Atlanta when vet Atlanta, president Lloyd Knight was so inspired during a speech by Colonel Mannion, that he penned the idea of that the Atlanta pillars during the event, the partnership between the Atlanta and the Travis Manion foundation grew when Colonel Tom Mannion was a keynote speaker at the Atlanta second quarter 27 by Coca Cola.

Scott Luton (02:59):

That is when I met the Colonel and I was impressed with his grace under what can only be described as crushing grief. And I could not put his book brothers forever down. I monitor announced that Amy will be one of the keynote speakers at the Atlanta third quarter summit, which will be held virtually on August 13th, hosted by ups. Looking forward to that big event that the summits, the Atlanta summits are always some of the best programming around for the veteran community here in the Metro Atlanta area. Amy and, and I know you’re going to be a knockout keynote, uh, what a great gift for that program. Shifting gears a bit though, Amy, and really start on on a very sincere note doing our homework here, Kevin and I both know that your husband was an incredible person, individual and, and so much more, um, what would you like our audience to know that Brendan

Amh Heffernan (03:51):

Brendan live life to the fullest? You know, he was only here on earth with us for 29 years, but he was something that everyone, you know, he was a Navy seal, a wonderful teammate, um, a loving son, brother, husband, and, and friend to very many people. He was the oldest of six siblings. So he often very much was used to playing a leadership role when within his family, which I believe translated into the way that he actually, you know, was able to step up as a leader, both personally and professionally all throughout his, his short 29 years here with us. I would say that if you walked away with anything to know about Brendan, it was that he gave everything that he put his heart and his effort into 110%. He never left anything feeling as if it was short changed or handled incorrectly. He always really thrived on stepping out of his comfort zone. And he used to tell me that, you know, he’s like you always grow more as a person when you take a leap of faith and step out and do something that isn’t comfortable for you. And I never, I never really understood what he meant by that. I think I got the concept, but I didn’t really understand that until I lived that experience by really stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to navigate and handle my life journey after his loss.

Scott Luton (05:11):

Gosh, so much to dive into there. But Kevin, let’s talk about Amy’s book here. I read your book, Amy, a knock at the door, uh, the journey of Ryan, Travis, Mannion sister and Heather, the widow of Rob Kelly. And of course you, the widow of Brendan, you don’t hold back in your third of the book and you state early in your narrative, be strong, be accountable, never complain. Can you elaborate on that?

Amh Heffernan (05:36):

I, um, those are actually, um, that’s really Brendan’s mantra and his words that I really just embraced, um, very much after his loss. And like I said earlier, you know, it’s kind of live life to the fullest. Be strong, always believe in yourself and know that you might not know exactly what the right step or the right decision is, but believe in yourself and be as strong as you think that you can be in a situation and, and be accountable. You know, whether that’s, you know, everyone makes mistakes, but owning them and understanding how to be accountable for them makes a really big impact on who you are as an individual. And I think my favorite out of the three has never complained. One thing Brendan never tolerated was complaining. He very much believed that, you know, if you have a problem, you go to the person, you talk about it, you address it and you pick up and you move on, but to sit there and complain, it doesn’t do anyone any value. So I’ve really lived by those, those three sentiments be strong, be accountable and never complain because I think many of us can get in situations where it’s easy to let some of those elements go. And I try to use Brendan as my inspiration as I try to push forward and, and do good things in his memory.

Kevin Horgan (06:46):

Three elements are, it’s a great mantra and you were very candid in the book, Amy, the story, it seemed to me, it’s less about you than about the people in your life who helped you grow and live up to that high standard and you state, I don’t know, quote, death has a way of making those who survive, question our own life decisions. Unquote, can you describe that for me?

Amh Heffernan (07:08):

I think it’s really about perspective. You know, my perspective changed significantly after Brendan’s death. I think before his death, I used to get upset at small things that didn’t really matter and, and really dwell and kind of focus on the little things. And I realized that after losing him that there are, you know, it’s a different perspective, you know, living each day and having an opportunity to have another day meant more to me than I ever thought that that would. And I think when you’re faced, whether it’s death or any kind of, you know, we wrote this book, the knock at the door, um, it’s really for everyone, you know, it’s not just about grief and loss. That was our specific knock at the door, but we all received a knock at the door. Um, maybe you’ve had it, maybe you haven’t yet, but at least understanding how to, um, pick up the pieces and how to move forward with purpose intention. And a new perspective is really, um, you know, where I was going with sharing that.

Kevin Horgan (08:06):

Well, I, I got to tell you that the book certainly is for everybody and it made me think a great deal of, uh, certain inadequacies in my life. It’s very powerful and touching. There’s another part that intrigued me. Can you talk of the, what if game becoming the what now? And the two way street,

Amh Heffernan (08:26):

My section talks about this concept of, you know, what if weighs a lot and how that can be very burdensome over time. And just naturally as an individual, I I’m always a planner. I’m always overthinking things and probably going into way more detailed than needs to be in any situation. And I, I used to think immediately after Brendan’s death, that why am I in this position? What if I hadn’t met Brendan or decided to date someone who was, you know, serving our country and a member of the military? What if I hadn’t moved out to San Diego where we were living, maybe I wouldn’t be faced with this situation. And I decided at a certain part in my grief that I had to stop thinking, you know, what, if this hadn’t happened, what if that hadn’t happened? Because I realized too that I had to find a way to be grateful for those moments and finding a way to be grateful, helped shift my perspective and help shift my attitude that I was able to start to think about.

Amh Heffernan (09:26):

Wow, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. If I hadn’t gone through these obstacles, if I hadn’t gone through these challenges and hadn’t been faced with grief and loss and how to try to overcome many of these challenges. And I, I really believe that I am a stronger person, not, not every moment of every day, but I think I am much stronger than I was prior to Brendan’s death, because I just think that it actually taught me to be grateful for some of the small lessons and things that I was being afforded. Um, you know, with, through my time with Brendan while he was here with us in a alive,

Kevin Horgan (10:01):

I gotta tell you, your honesty is certainly is inspirational. And they, you state in book and I’m paraphrasing that one of the most important things Brendan helped you prepare for was to be his widow. And that seems to me to be a key of any good marriage, it just rings true. You, you right, Amy in an unpretentious humble manner, but you’re a self-styled type a personality. I mean, you write thank you notes within 72 hours. So who does that is your modesty, your superpower.

Amh Heffernan (10:33):

You know, it’s actually funny that you mentioned that. Um, because I will say it’s, you know, it’s one of my best qualities, but it’s also one of my worst qualities because sometimes I don’t necessarily like to take credit for work or things that I’ve done. So sometimes I’m a little bit too modest or a little bit too humble. And I think, you know, my goal is trying to find that balance where it is important to show that the work that you’re doing, you know, you want to take credit for it. You want to, you want to own that experience in the work that you’ve done, because you care about it. But at the same time, I think for me, it’s always easier for me to focus on others versus myself, because I’m just a very giving person. And to me, I would rather go out and worry about everyone else versus thinking about myself and some of the accolades and accomplishments that I’ve made. So I think it’s, it’s, there’s pros and cons to being modest and being humbled. But I think finding that balance and that fine line on how to play the two together, I think will be where I actually, um, you know, Excel in the long term.

Scott Luton (11:39):

It really is a powerful testimony is, is the phrase that comes to my mind right now is as I listen more of your insights and your observations and kind of your journey here, Amy, in my background, some them, some my favorite

Scott Luton (11:54):

Leader, some of the most powerful leaders I’ve ever had the privilege of working around and rub elbows with a lot of those folks had a great tragedy at some point in their lives. And they redirected a lot of what came from that into new projects, new opportunities, new initiatives, new journeys. Now, a lot of those folks did not have the tragedy that, that you had and the loss of your husband, but clearly from what I’m hearing is you were able to very successfully look within yourself and redirect extreme levels of grief into helping others. And so let’s talk more about the Travis Mannion foundation and how a lot of what, how you’ve been able to redirect things really has very, in a very powerful way, helped many others. So tell us if you would first, when did you decide to join the Travis Manion foundation?

Amh Heffernan (12:44):

I actually decided to join, um, you know, the organization’s been in existence since 2007, just after first Lieutenant Travis Mannion, um, was killed in Iraq, uh, shot by an enemy sniper, trying to rescue and bring to safety, his, um, wounded teammates. And, you know, for me, Travis was a very close friend of mine and Brendan’s, they went to the Naval Academy together. They were roommates, best friends. And now they’re buried side by side, um, at Arlington national cemetery and for both Brendan and I back in 2007, that was really the first person that we had lost in service to our country. And it was really a wake up call for me because, you know, I was dating someone who was in training to be a Navy seal and also, you know, to lose Travis, who was someone that was so close to us, you almost feel like sometimes you’re a little removed from it until it happens to you.

Amh Heffernan (13:41):

And it very much caught Brendan and I off guard because you always hear about things, whether it’s in the movies or the news or the media, but you think, well, that will happen to me or that won’t happen to someone. I know. So that was a big wake up call for us. And I know that, you know, Brendan was very inspired and motivated even more to ensure that Travis, his memory and his legacy would continue on. So we both really got involved early on back in 2007, Brendan ran the Marine Corps marathon that year. And, um, and Travis has memory and, you know, the foundation very much started out doing small events and things to honor. And remember the sacrifices that our military community and our gold star family members make on a daily basis. So we started volunteering and then obviously three and a half years later, fast forward to 2010, Brendan is killed on his final combat mission in Afghanistan.

Amh Heffernan (14:38):

So for me, I was like, wow, this is, you know, something that will has completely changed my life and that not only having, you know, dealing with Travis’s loss, but now I’m dealing with the, the loss and the death of my husband. And for me, I knew that the way that Brendan felt about Travis and ensuring his legacy would be remembered was going to be something that was also incredibly important to me, because it was so important, Brendan as well. So I, I honestly volunteered to start one of our community engagement efforts. It’s called the nine 11 heroes run, and it’s traditionally known as a five K race series, but it’s really turned in to a national community event to honor. And remember the men and women that have sacrificed their lives are first responders. Our law enforcement, our healthcare workers who have really put their lives on the line on nine 11 and in, and in the worst to follow.

Amh Heffernan (15:35):

So I thought, you know, what a great way for me to get engaged in the community, it had never happened. The nine 11 heroes run was new to San Diego. So I got a group of my closest girlfriends together that first year after Brendan’s deaths in 2011. And we put on this nine 11 heroes run and we had over 1100 people show up for a first time event. And I just remember being at that event and thinking, wow, this is really incredible. People do care. They do, they do want to honor. And remember those that have selflessly serve and sacrifice. And it meant something to me. I started to feel the change, you know, I was like, wow, even though I was concerned that I wouldn’t have any direction or a sense of purpose or meaning after Brendan’s death, I felt like I had found something to get involved, create a larger community and really demonstrate the value that our military community brings to the forefront. They demonstrate a lot of leadership skills, a lot of ways to persevere. They demonstrate resilience, so many different attributes that they possess. And I just felt like with the work that we do at the Travis Manion foundation, it was such a great forum for me to put my time and energy into making something better and serving the community while also ensuring that Brennan and Travis’s memory and their legacy would live on in a very positive way.

Scott Luton (16:59):

So I want to talk a little bit more about the Travis mini foundation, but, but if I can take a quick sidebar Amy person, I’ve interviewed a bunch of folks, whether it’s live events or podcast or webinars, or you name it. And I’m a big believer in empathy. And I’m trying as I hear more about your story and just your sheer loss between Brendan and of course, Travis being such a close friend, it’s staggering to try to walk in your shoes for a minute. And I don’t know if it’s just me and maybe I’m too far removed from it being out of the service for so long, but do you get, as you engage folks in your journeys and your responsibilities with the Travis Manion foundation, do you find other folks that really struggle to, to really empathize and, and, uh, understand just the sheer amount of loss and the major sacrifices that you and your family have made?

Amh Heffernan (17:51):

I definitely think, you know, when you work in a very, a community based organization, you meet all kinds of different people, people that have experiences with the military, those that don’t, and you see, and you interact with people at all different places. You know, you’re getting the version, that’s talking to you of someone who has, you know, I’m 10 years out of my loss of losing Brendan. And I’m a very different person now than I was, you know, the first year or the third year or the fifth year after Brendan’s death. And I think surrounding yourself with people who aspire to do something good and being wanting to be agents of change and really ensuring that, you know, the sacrifices of those that have served and put their life on the line, um, is something that’s, that’s, that’s truly powerful, you know, and, and we meet, you know, I work with other gold star families who probably could not, you know, they’re not at the same place in their journey that I’m at right now, but I will say, I think what is, is something that motivates them is for them to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s going to take time.

Amh Heffernan (19:05):

And there’s going to be time that times that you will actually progress forward really well. And then there’s moments that I’m here 10 years out, and I can hear a song that reminds me of Brendan and I’ll immediately start crying because it takes me back to those moments and things that really stick in my mind about the life and the love that we shared. And I think having those experiences and being able to demonstrate that we all go through ups and downs and we all go through different walks throughout different stages in life, and it’s okay to struggle. But a lot of what we talk about in the book is learning how to struggle well and struggle well together.

Scott Luton (19:46):

Thanks so much for sharing. It means a lot, really appreciate that. And the thought you ended on that, it’s okay to struggle. You know, I think there’s a lot of, um, at least when I was in the military, there was a lot of hate. It’s not okay to struggle. That was kind of how we’re built, right. We didn’t want to appear to be weak or, or what have you. And that’s such an important message that it’s okay. And, and, and there’s folks there waiting and willing to struggle with you and then get you through these really tough times if that thanks so much for sharing. Okay. On a much lighter note, going back to your work with the Travis Manion foundation, you know, the good news is, you know, even since nine 11, when you know the last, uh, gosh, 19 years of fighting Wars really began, there’s been a lot of veteran organizations, uh, establish themselves and try to figure out how to help the veteran community.

Scott Luton (20:40):

They’re not all built alike by any means. That’s one of my favorite things about the vet Lana organization, where, you know, Lloyd and Kevin and the rest of the team really works to vet all of these different organizations, a lot of these organizations. And I think this is pretty fair to say, can be laid back because they really depend on all volunteers and, and, you know, sometimes the programs take place because there’s resources. Sometimes there’s not. So you kind of have to be laid back and they flexible, but they’re doing good work. Uh, but you know, the Travis mania foundation seems to be built differently. And, and I’ve been following the foundation on Facebook in particular for a couple of years and really admire whether it’s a nine 11 heroes run or the program we’re gonna talk about in a minute, a character does matter, but what makes the Travis Manion foundation in your view so different than than many other service organizations

Amh Heffernan (21:33):

Before I kind of get into the character development piece, you know, let me just share a little bit about, on a larger scale, what we do as an organization. You know, we’re a national community that has over 120,000 members, but we’re led by our veterans and our families of the fallen as a foundation. We invest in our members through personal development, leadership, training, and education. And in return, our members actually serve as volunteer leaders and role models for character. And when you do that, as a result, those members will actually gain a renewed sense of purpose, strong, personal relationships, and the opportunity to really leverage their strengths, their own personal strengths, and understand how to actually go out and make an impact in their community. And when you leverage the military community, you really establish a strong and unified national Dennett identity. That’s really built around character leadership and service.

Amh Heffernan (22:29):

So when you think about, you know, I know Scott, you were sharing a little bit about our character does matter program, and that’s definitely, I believe really what you know, that is our Keystone effort. And it’s really about training and developing our veterans and our families of the fallen to go out and teach our younger generations, how to step up, be leaders live by the words that are Travis’s words that he spoke, um, before he left for that last and final deployment, if not me, then who learning how to live that and putting that into action can actually make true change in the community. So it’s wonderful because, you know, you’re providing that opportunity for our veterans and our families of the fallen to really step up, find a new sense of purpose, um, a new sense of meaning and build new relationships that are only going to foster good things. And I think many of us can really feel comfortable knowing that what a great concept to have our military community step up and be a value and really lead and demonstrate real change through our next generation who can help really rebuild and repair and serve and make good in our communities here, here on the home front,

Scott Luton (23:42):

Just what you shared there, your unique value proposition

Scott Luton (23:46):

Is still a business word is very clear and, and love that. It seems like it’s some of the, some of my favorite organizations, especially those that really have a intent focus on serving, make that to be very practical with really clear bottom line results. And it seems like that’s a big part of your DNA at the Travis Manion foundation. Yeah, very much so. Alright, so now let’s talk about this character does matter, right? I think I’d seen something a while back via social media about one of the events related to this, and then it hit my radar when Kevin and I were doing a little bit of prep for today’s interview. So tell us more about this character does matter.

Amh Heffernan (24:25):

You know, we work with thousands of veterans and families of the fallen that we trained through our curriculum to go into, you know, local middle school, high schools, athletic groups, youth groups, um, sports, sporting activity clubs, um, that message of character leadership and service is really relevant in all of those different areas. But our, our veterans and our families of the fallen they go in and they actually teach this curriculum to middle school and high school age students. And the idea is really for them to understand, um, you know, what servant leadership looks like, how to be a leader in your own community and really understanding what are your strengths, what are your values and how do you leverage those to really go out and make an impact? And I think it’s great. You know, there’s so many organizations that yes, we do truly serve veterans and we’re affording them this opportunity to go out and mentor these young adults.

Amh Heffernan (25:20):

But what a great feeling to know that the experiences that you’ve shared, whether it’s through your military service or losing a loved one, you can actually go out and make change by demonstrating the value of that. By teaching that to young adults and helping them develop what their values are, what their character strengths are and how you can go out and live that to better yourself and better your community. So such a great concept. When you think about the fact that it’s benefiting the military community, but also benefiting our youth and our young adults out there. Love it.

Scott Luton (25:52):

And what a program, huh? Yeah, absolutely. It’s um, it’s really magnificent and I’m proud to be a sponsor too. I think that’s great, Amy, um, while conducting some, uh, research for our talk today, we noticed you were recently interviewed by Chad Graham of the Woody Williams foundation. It’s significant because medal of honor, recipient, Woody Williams will be the other keynote speaker at the Atlanta Q3 summit on August 13th. The mission of what he’s foundation is to honor recognize and serve gold star families and their loved ones who have pay the ultimate sacrifice. You already touched on the gold star family, but can you describe more about the typical gold star family member and also provide, if you can, some advice on what we can do to not just assist them, but what can we do to,

Amh Heffernan (26:44):

Yeah, that’s it, that’s a great question, Kevin. And we get asked that a lot, especially as a gold star spouse myself, and, you know, I w I was lucky that Chad and I were able to have that conversation, um, just about the importance of honoring and remembering the men and women that have selflessly served and sacrificed their lives in service to our country. I think it’s incredibly important for people to, you know, the family members that I associate with and the ones that, you know, even myself, this is how I feel. It’s very important. You know, there’s a saying out there that no one is truly dead until their name is no longer spoken. And I really believe those words carry such magnitude when it comes to the way that gold star families feel about the death of their loved ones. You know, they enjoy talking about the memories and the stories and, you know, the funny qualities and things that those, those, those individuals had, you know, a lot of people that have not experienced loss often think, well, maybe it’s better to not talk about that person because I don’t want to upset them or bring up some feelings that maybe could cause some emotion.

Amh Heffernan (27:55):

And I, I believe this, and I found with other gold star families, they, they want to, you know, still talk about them. They want to talk about those memories and the biggest and most important thing that I see is that they want to ensure that their sacrifice is not forgotten and ensuring that there are people out there that can go and understand and learn about those stories, learn about those men and women that have given their lives for us, that, that have, that do not, or have not worn the uniform is so incredibly important. And that’s, you know, one of the biggest components of what we do at the foundation is we’re ensuring that by going out and be of service to others, that’s a great way to continue on the legacy of our fallen and ensuring that their memory and the legacy and the way that they live their lives is never forgotten.

Scott Luton (28:47):

Yes. Ah, man. Okay. So shifting gears a little bit here, Amy, let’s talk about resiliency is one of the words we’ve heard a lot about in 2020 big topic, uh, universal, uh, universally, especially in the business world, become a buzz word just about overnight, but military veterans and military families. I would argue, I think Kevin and I both would argue, tend to be more, more resilient because, you know, military way of life demands it, our nation faces no shortage of great challenges right now, and has for four months now, which is going to require a ton of strength and purpose to drive change, but also resiliency in our quality. That’s challenging for all individuals, organizations, and industries to attain. So the question for you kind of with that preset, how can organizations like Travis Mannion foundation and Atlanta and, and, and your work, how do you all partner with other veteran service organizations to help rebuild the resilience and resiliency in our country and our community?

Amh Heffernan (29:55):

Great question, and so relevant to the time that we’re living in right now for us, it’s really about providing, you know, I talked about how we train and educate and develop our military community to step up and be leaders on the home front. And I think that that’s so important right now, because I think no matter what views you have, how you feel about the way that our country, you know, the challenges that we’re faced with right now, I think at the end of the day, we’re all looking and craving for leadership right in our own backyard. And I think if we can continue to invest, train, develop our military community, our families of the fallen, our, our, our military families, you know, if we can leverage them to demonstrate the values, the resilience, the experiences that they’ve been through to go out and step up to be leaders at home to make change, um, and to create better and stronger communities and demonstrate what real, what real leadership can look like right down the street from you, from your own neighbor.

Amh Heffernan (30:59):

I think that’s incredibly important that we take that time and we invest in our military community and we keep investing in them because I know I’m sure Kevin and Scott, you can relate just from your own, you know, service experiences. You know, you’ve been faced with times that have been challenging and difficult, and I’m sure very much like myself, I feel like that has helped guide me into becoming a more resilient individual. And I think it’s really up to us that if we’ve been through these experiences, you know, we’ve had this knock at the door, it’s, it’s up to us to really step up and be leaders of change right here in our own communities.

Kevin Horgan (31:37):

I have a couple more questions since about the book. I really enjoyed it. It is that good. And my wife is digging through it. Now. She says, it’s, it’s very difficult for her. Um, it’s not an easy book to get through, but a couple things you finish your segment of the book, talking about three elements, another mantra first, choose courage. Second building, a new present does not whitewash your past. And finally, you never know what you’re prepared for. So be present and have fish. And you think this applies to old people grieving to all faces of that grief process. Yeah.

Amh Heffernan (32:13):

Kevin, I think it actually can apply to everyone because I feel like sometimes, you know, when I talk about at the first and foremost of everything, choose courage, courage is not always easier. You know, I talk a little bit about how I felt like I sort of hit this fork in the road a few years out of my loss of Brendan. And I really felt like I was forced to really shift my, my attitude, my narrative, the way I was thinking about things. And it took more courage for me to step up and make changes in my life. Whereas I felt as if it would have been easier if I just kind of sat and allowed my grief to consume me, because then I didn’t have to make any real changes, but I, I really embrace that mantra because I felt like I looked at Brendan.

Amh Heffernan (33:04):

I looked at Travis, I looked at the way that they lived their lives and they would have not have been okay with me sitting around and letting my grief consume me. I know that they, they knew that I had the strength in me. I just needed to find a way to dig deep down and figure out how to be courageous and try to make steps forward, but still do it in a meaningful way that I could ensure that their legacy and their memory would not be forgotten. You know, the other thing that I talked about was building a new present does not whitewash your past. I think that’s really important because, you know, almost three years ago I got remarried and I have a wonderful husband, Joel, who truly respects and understands and appreciates me and, and my experiences that I’ve been through in my life.

Amh Heffernan (33:54):

And I, I think he is a incredible man to be able to understand that I would not be the person I am today, if I hadn’t been through these experiences. And that is the person that, that he loves. He’s like, I don’t know what you were like before, but I feel like in some ways I’ve been able to benefit because you have been able to understand growth and development and how to push forward. And he’s like, I don’t feel, you know, I think it’s important that you’re out there. You’re continuing to do that work and demonstrate the value and using yourself as an example, to show that you can still have a future, but it doesn’t mean that you have to eliminate your past and experiences that you’ve been through in order to achieve that.

Scott Luton (34:39):

Wow. Well, congratulations to you and Joel, I, uh, that’s, that’s really wonderful that you stated in the book and I’m going to quote exactly it’s, it’s short and it’s eloquent the path to gratitude lies in openness. It sounds almost biblical. And if you told me you swiped it from the Bible, I might be crushed, but the path to gratitude lies and openness, can you illustrate that now, in respect to the foundation,

Amh Heffernan (35:06):

For me, it was really about being open to new opportunities. It was very difficult for me early on, because as I mentioned, I’m, I’m a planner. I like to know when to expect things. I like to know how to be prepared in case challenges or obstacles are thrown my way. And I’ve really learned in time that sometimes they’re, you can just be grateful for having the ability and the mindset to just be open to whatever’s next. And I think it’s easier for us to create walls and put up barriers to kind of help protect ourselves and block ourselves from things that may, that may harm us or maybe hurtful to us. But I found that shifting my mindset to be more open, allowed me to be more grateful for some of these experiences that I might’ve closed my doors to or closed my eyes and my experiences.

Amh Heffernan (35:56):

So I felt like I was able to be a more open and vulnerable person by allowing myself to just be present and accept those opportunities for whatever was out there and really try to learn from them. You know, some of them were not good opportunities and some of them were really good. And fortunately enough, I’ve been very, um, fortunate and the experiences of my work at the Travis Manion foundation. And I will say that has taught me to be very grateful because it’s given me a platform and it’s given me a forum to do great work. Um, that really demonstrates how valuable our survivors, our military community, and many of those that just want to aspire to do something good and be an agent of change. And I think that that’s something that’s incredibly important to allow yourself to experience those opportunities.

Scott Luton (36:46):

As we start to wrap up the interview here today, Amy, I want to ask you a question and given, given your journey, the pandemic may or may not present nearly the challenge that some of your other, uh, experiences and aspects of your journey has presented, but you know, when you think about how the pandemic has impacted your ability to serve and the foundation’s ability to serve and home life with Joel, what are some of the major things that come to mind?

Amh Heffernan (37:12):

I think no matter, you know, what kind of coping mechanisms you have or how resilient you are, we’ve all faced challenges with this pandemic. You know, whether it’s personally, professionally, um, you know, I, Joel and I, we had our first child back in September of last year. So being a new mom, um, spending most of my time in motherhood during the pandemic, really being someone who has thrived on my friendships and my relationships with others. And, you know, I have a husband who is an essential employee, so, you know, and, and, and working remotely from home and ensuring our mission still remains very much at the top of people’s minds. Um, and remaining important and valuable, I think, has been a struggle for me to balance all of those and feel as if I’m doing it well. So I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge, you know, as an organization, I think the pandemic really we’ve been able to pivot, and we have a phenomenal team that has really just as many of us have had, has had to learn how to adapt, adjust, and push forward.

Amh Heffernan (38:18):

And, you know, many of us, I think at the beginning, it was very much about we actually turned inward because we very much believe, you know, when you talk about these elements of, you know, ensuring that the wellbeing of our members is always at the forefront of our mind. You know, we turned in and ensured that our staff and our volunteer leaders were really doing okay because at the end of the day, their wellbeing and, you know, their mental health throughout all of this was our top priority. So ensuring, you know, that we were taking care of them doing what was right to ensure that they were okay. Really allowed us. Cause I think it’s, when you think about this concept of mental health and wellbeing, if you can’t take care of yourself, how are you supposed to go out and be of value to others? So we really spent a lot of time, you know, we have lots of resources on our website. Um, we’ve also, you know, transitioned a lot of our programming and those workshops that I was talking about earlier into having the capability to, you know, lead and train those, um, everybody remotely. So it’s been, you know, as, as with everything, there’s been some ups and downs, but overall we’ve been able to pivot in a way that I think has been very meaningful to our members. But in addition to our communities at large, as well

Kevin Horgan (39:36):

For our veterans and non veteran listeners, anybody, what can we do to help the Travis magnets?

Amh Heffernan (39:44):

We have something for everyone. You know, I talked a lot about, yes, we’re led by our veterans and our families of the fallen, but the foundation has opportunities. You know, I talked about creating and building a community and that’s really what we are as an organization. So there’s something for everyone. If you decide, what, what really makes you tick is helping volunteer and being a part of something. Then I would just encourage you to go to our in the upper right hand corner, there is an icon that says join the mission and it will share every program, every workshop that we have, that’s available, every resource that you can get involved, regardless of whether you’re a military family member, caregiver, a veteran survivor, and a civilian, you know, some people are very interested in the work we do and want to continue supporting and providing us a way to, to carry on this great work.

Amh Heffernan (40:36):

And you can certainly donate, you know, you can do that through our website and help ensure that our programs, you know, do continue on and making an impact. And last but not least, I would say if none of those two options motivate you, anything you can do to share our message, you know, getting that, if not me, then who message and mantra out there inspiring others to, to live by. That is something that’s incredibly valuable and important and will help change you as an individual. Very much like it’s helped inspire me over the years, as well as it can to benefiting others.

Scott Luton (41:11):

So I was going to say there, Amy, in that earlier segment, you make a very valid point that it’s very difficult to help others. If I can remember exactly how you put it, if you’re not right yourself, right? So taking care, you know, kind of getting your ducks in a row first before you really are in position to really move the needle and make the biggest impact in other’s lives. It sounded a lot better coming from you and remind us exactly how you put that.

Amh Heffernan (41:39):

Scott. I just shared that. It’s really about you can’t be a value to anyone else until you’re a value to yourself. And I think we all have to take our, you know, we have to discipline ourselves, especially when we’re, you know, stuck in our homes for months and months at a time, you know, find something that’s helpful for you, where you can sort of, you know, check out for maybe 30 minutes and clear your head. We had, like I said, we have resources on our website that are all focused around, you know, the month of may, we did a big push around the mental health and wellbeing of our members. We did a webinar, we have all kinds of resources, gratitude, journals, you name it. But it’s very important. And, and really what we’ve always talked about at the foundation is finding these ways to still feel like you’re a part of something. Even if you are stuck at home, taking care of yourself, once you’re in a good place, it’s much more valuable to everyone else you’re around. If you want to go out and serve your community, I guarantee you, you will be of more value if you’ve taken the time to take care of you and your family before you step out and be of greater good to the larger community as a whole

Scott Luton (42:43):

Love that much more eloquently than I could ever put it. But the other great thing about that is, is while it’s highly relevant within the veteran community, what you just shared there in that perspective is really universal. Especially during these pandemic times where we’re all challenged and we all get down and, and finding those ways to unplug or find those ways to, uh, to take care of yourself are so important. So I really admire all that you do, and the journey you’ve gone through and how you’re now positioned to help so many other folks by sharing perspective, like you have here today, but, you know, leading the really practical, powerful programming at the Travis Manion foundation, uh, and real quick for our listeners, that URL where you can learn more is Travis And that’s, uh, Travis, M a N I O N dot Oregon. Of course, Amy y’all are across social media as well, correct? Yes.

Amh Heffernan (43:37):

Everything. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. What else am I missing? I think we’re on techno kicked off now, too. So that’s a new one for me, but yes, we’re on every outlet of social media you could imagine.

Scott Luton (43:48):

And, you know, th the center, the central really vehicle for today’s interview and Kevin, I’m so glad that you really put the spotlight on this, and that’s this great book that Amy Looney Heffernan, our guests here today has written the knock at the door, three gold star families bonded by grief and purpose. You heard the impact that’s had on Kevin and now his wife’s reading it and, and very powerful. It sounds like in, in her life as well. Where can we find the book Amy

Amh Heffernan (44:15):

Available on Amazon and any other major bookstores websites? Um, it’s also available on audible. So if you don’t like to read, you can certainly listen to it. You can read it on your Kindle. It’s got a format that will work for everybody. We’ll try to include some those links in the show notes

Scott Luton (44:32):

And make it really easy for folks. We’ve enjoyed our conversation here today with Amy loony Heffernan, again, author of the knock at the door. Uh, Amy is also the widow of Lieutenant Brendan Looney, a Navy seal. We lost in Afghanistan, September, 2010, and, and really appreciate your thoughts shared. They are also Amy serves as the vice president of the Travis Manion foundation, where her and her team are, are giving back and helping so many people. So check them Thanks so much, Amy and big, thanks to Kevin Horgan and our friends, our vet Lana. You’re making these valuable connections, spotlighting the folks that are doing incredible work, uh, serving the vet, the veteran community, Kevin real quick, the next summit is coming up. Do you have the date again? Yes. It’s August 13th and invites should be going out next weekend. We have a huge platform to do it on.

Kevin Horgan (45:24):

We have breakout sessions in the afternoon. We have a, um, a networking component, which is really just a slide show if you will. And we do have, uh, Amy is going to be speaking at it. Also, Woody Williams will be speaking at it and along with a couple other short bites of different information, and that program is about an hour and 10 minutes. Uh it’s. It should be very exciting. And Amy, if I can just say it was a pleasure having you on the show today and to thank you for your service to everyone. Thank you, Kevin, appreciate all your support and your partnership through Atlanta. But now I am, you know, mutually just so appreciative of having the opportunity to share something and hopefully someone will walk away with maybe something they didn’t know coming into this. Undoubtedly, undoubtedly big. Thanks again, Amy Looney Heffernan. Kevin Horgan. You can check out that our August 13th summit, where Amy will be, V E T L a N T on behalf of the entire team here at veteran voices and supply chain. Now Scott Luton wishing all of our listeners, nothing but the best. Hey, you heard it here. You heard it. What a great testimony do good give forward and be the change that’s needed on that note. We’ll see you next time. We’ll better invoices.

Would you rather watch the show in action?  Watch as Scott introduces you to Amy Looney Heffernan and Veteran Voices through our YouTube channel.

Amy Looney Heffernan Ever since her late husband, LT (SEAL) Brendan Looney was killed in Afghanistan on September 21, 2010 and awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, Amy Looney has served as an inspirational champion for families of fallen service members, military families, veterans, and American troops. Serving as Vice President of Travis Manion Foundation, Amy leads a national movement focused on empowering veterans & families of the fallen to foster the next generation of leaders in the mission to unite communities to strengthen America’s national character. She is dedicated to carrying on the legacy of her late husband and friend, Travis Manion, who are buried side by side in Arlington National Cemetery. A personal tragedy fueled an impassioned advocate to inspire, motivate, and empower individuals, communities, and a nation, to honor the fallen by challenging the living. A consistent voice to the national conversation and advocacy of veterans & families of the fallen, Amy is frequently invited to address national audiences on Fox News, CNN, CBS, TED-X, in written publications such as the Washington Post, and multiple personal appearances spanning the US. She is also the co-author of the newly released book, The Knock at the Door. Amy received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Johns Hopkins University and her Master’s in Public Administration from George Washington University. Amy currently resides in the Northern VA/DC Metro area with her husband, Joel, daughter, Grace and rescue dog, Payton.

Kevin Horgan served as a USMC infantry officer from 1979 to 1984. He transitioned to civilian life attending law school and loading trucks for UPS on the same day, two weeks after walking off MCRD San Diego. Kevin retired from UPS in 2017 after 33 years of service in operations, engineering, and corporate real estate. He currently works with VETLANTA and other veteran projects in the community. Kevin and his wife Maureen have four adult children and three grandchildren. Kevin is an avid reader and has published two Civil War novels, and he blogs regularly on (for transitioning Marines and servicemen and women) and (musings on the world at large). Learn more about Kevin Horgan:


Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


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