BTU #66 - Sean Barney: Purple Heart recipient to Congressional Candidate


“I think many of us served because we love this country and love what it stands for. I think - like many people - I'm frustrated that our representatives are not as good as the country they represent. They've allowed the American Dream to fade; they've allowed money to become the dominant influence over politics; they've failed to address some of the defining issues of our time like climate change. And I think that our democracy is our inheritance as citizens and that as citizens we deserve better. And I think that veterans have that love of country that can motivate us to run into the breach and I think we have a lot to offer." – Sean Barney

Sean Barney is a public defender. He started out at Swarthmore College, after which he served for five years as a Machine Gunner in the 25th Marine Regiment, where he was awarded the Purple Heart. Since transitioning from the Marines, Sean has worked at the Think Tank, Third Way. He has also been extremely active in politics - one of the main things we’ll talk about today - his experience here is extensive but a few highlights are serving as both the Campaign Manager and then Policy Director for Governor Jack Markell  and a Candidate for Congress. Sean holds a Master of Arts from Columbia University, a Masters of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of government, and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.

The top three reasons to listen to this episode are:

  1. Purple Heart: Sean shares the story of his life threatening injury in Iraq, and how this shaped his thoughts on career and life
  2. Public Service: Sean recently ran in an extremely close race for Congress in Delaware. His motivation for seeking office is inspirational and one that would benefit any listener
  3. Openness: Sean was one of the first veterans - if not the first veteran - to openly discuss his experience with PTSD while he was on the campaign trail. He talks about how this was motivated out of an obligation to help others and set an example.

Our Sponsor

Audible is offering one FREE audio book to Beyond the Uniform listeners. You can claim this offer here, and see a list of books recommended by my guests at

Selected Links

  • New Politics - the organization that helped Sean (and other veterans) run his campaign for office.
  • Vote Vets - continues to focus on matters including, but not limited to, foreign policy, energy security, veterans’ unemployment, and opening military service to life-long Americans born to undocumented immigrants, as well as continued investment in care for veterans.
  • Team Rubicon - Disaster Response Veterans Service Organization on Team Rubicon.

Show Notes

  • 1:40 - Sean’s background
  • 2:30 - The story behind Sean’s Purple Heart
  • 6:10 - How Sean’s brush with death affected his view of life and career
  • 8:44 - How Sean’s life-threatening injury lead to one year of recovery and an unexpected departure from the Marines
  • 11:00 - Sean’s advice for other veterans who may face a career transition earlier than they expected
  • 13:45 - A look at Sean’s recent, hard-fought democratic congressional race in Delaware, and how he first decided to run for office
  • 16:37 - An overview of New Politics, and how they helped Sean prepare for his campaign
  • 20:00 - What life looks like on the campaign trail
  • 23:30 - What it was like having to raise money as part of a campaign, and how much time this takes
  • 28:30 - How Sean was amongst the first (if not the first) veterans to talk about his personal experience with PTSD on the campaign trail
  • 32:20 - What it was like to come forward very publicly with something that - until that moment - had been a private matter
  • 33:53 - What day-to-day life is like on the campaign trail and how Sean managed his campaign
  • 37:11 - The most difficult moment in Sean’s 10 months of campaigning
  • 39:35 - How this influenced Sean and how it would affect a future campaign
  • 43:17 - Resources Sean would recommend to veterans considering a career in public service
  • 45:02 - How much money Sean raised during his campaign
  • 47:15 - Final words of wisdom