For most of her life, Brittney Hogan was a perpetually positive energy force. She was happiest when she was busy, and she always was busy.
But in June of 2012, her world went dark.
Marine Lance Cpl. Hunter Hogan, her husband of 18 months, was killed in combat in Afghanistan. When she received the news while shopping at a mall in North Carolina, she collapsed, screaming. She was just 21, as was Hunter.
She felt lost and found solace in alcohol. She moved back to San Diego, where she had met Hunter, to be closer to family. She hoped it would reboot her life, but it didn't.
"I was drinking every night," recalls Hogan. "Not even going out. Just drinking by myself as soon as I woke up in the morning. It was a hard time."
It wasn't till a cousin asked her to run with her that she found a path toward the light.
First, Brittney - who had never been athletic - did a 5K. She was surprised. She liked it. She soon discovered she had to stop drinking if she wanted to get up early to run. Then she ran a 15K. By October of 2014 she completed a half marathon. It was no coincidence that she was starting to enjoy life once more. She got a job doing accounting and office managing. She started eating a healthy diet, fell in love again (she's engaged) and looked to the future.
"Running and fitness gave me a purpose," she says.
She decided to build her life around being fit. While still working full time, she launched a business, Virago Fitness, in September of 2014, selling workout clothes with positive messages ("Turn Your Struggle Into Strength" and "Run For Your Life"). This past summer she quit her job to focus on her business and school. She's studying small-business entrepreneurship on the G.I. Bill.
Hogan, 25, is seeing growth, though Virago can't yet support her. But, she has big plans. She's now selling running shoes (her dad is a shoe designer) and organizing weekly meet-ups through Virago for running, rock climbing, hiking and karate-fitness classes.
A portion of all sales go toward the USO, the nonprofit that helped her so much after Hunter's death, and a scholarship fund for high school rodeo athletes (as Hunter was). Eventually, she'd like to expand enough to provide jobs for former military.
These days, Hogan runs, does yoga twice a week, takes fitness classes and hikes. She's a positive energy force again.
"I always knew I was a strong person, but I never thought I could get through something like my husband dying," she says. "You just never know what's going to cross your path. You just have to stay strong and find something you can really get into and find your purpose in life. Life is what you make it."
That message is reflected in the definition of her company's name, Virago: "A woman of great stature, strength and courage."