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Major Monarch

Harry McBrien and Pat Gallagher

Lt. Harry McBrien with Deputy Chief Pat Gallagher of the Virginia Beach Police Department leading the Monarch football team.

Diana McBrien laughs as she recalls seeing Harry for the first time. She and her family were living in Navy housing in Virginia Beach when Harry and his family moved into the house across the street. Trying to catch a glimpse of the handsome new teenager, Diana pulled down the blades of her blinds. She was smitten. Years later, after both families had moved, the only sign of a crush long carried was the shape of the blinds at the front of Diana’s house—they’d been permanently bent into a large smile—proof of hundreds of peeks out the window.

As time moved by, Harry and Diana began dating and then married. Harry joined the Marine Reserves and then began his education at TCC and continued at ODU, majoring in political science. Five years later their daughter, Lauren was born. Soon after the deployments began. Harry was gone for 10 months while serving in the Horn of Africa. It was a difficult time for the family, but especially for Lauren, then 8. Diana was determined to turn Harry’s absence into something positive. So she compiled Lauren’s letters into a book, called “Dear Daddy,” not only as a keepsake for Harry, but also to prepare other military families for deployments.

Along the way, Harry encouraged Diana to continue her education, and she earned a Masters Degree in education and is currently working in Norfolk as a special education teacher.

Harry works for the Virginia Beach Police Department, which he says has provided incredible support during three tours that took him to Jordan, the Horn of Africa and Iraq. During each trip abroad, Harry led initiatives to partner with organizations to benefit communities in those countries, like Flip-Flops for Africa, which provides children with shoes.

Harry says he has the best job at the VBPD, where he’s now a lieutenant in special operations. After his retirement from the military, Harry helped the department create a military liaison program. It was designed to reduce the possibility of young military members being prosecuted criminally, instead turning them over to the military, thereby saving their records. “It’s been six years in the works,” Harry said, “and it’s the first program of its kind.” He hopes it will serve as a model for other military communities.

The McBriens’ connections to ODU run deep. They were ecstatic when ODU launched a new football program. They waited a year and a half to buy season tickets. When game day finally arrived, Harry was deployed for the third time, missing the entire first season. So Diana decided to take the game to Harry. She and Lauren went to first game—their first time on campus while Harry was managing air traffic control in Iraq. Once in their seats, Diana videotaped the game, then sent it to Harry with a 2009 Game Day shirt. He wore it in Iraq while watching the game, and on many days to follow.

In the second season, Harry and Diana tailgated and watched the games together. And that tradition continues today. Harry, dubbed by his friends “Major Monarch,” can be seen in his hard hat, shorts and boots (yes, even in inclement weather), running up and down the sidelines, bringing fans to their feet while leading cheers for the Monarchs.

This level of commitment to ODU also persuaded Harry to include Old Dominion in his estate plans. Together, the McBriens chose to restrict their future gift to a student-athlete scholarship.

And this year, it is Lauren who will be away from home as she begins the physician assistant program at JMU.

Like her parents, Lauren’s goal is to help people, and to give back to her community.

For more information on how you can help Old Dominion University, contact Barbara M. Henley, CFRE at 757-683-6563 or or Brett A. Smiley, CFRE at 757-683-4735 or

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