Among the first women to serve at sea and a two-time recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Loewer is essentially the living embodiment of Women’s History Month.
“I pushed hard,” she said afterward, “but I’d like to think I pushed wisely.”
This month also marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, a war that claimed 4,409 American lives. She didn’t mention it during her remarks Saturday, and no one attending the luncheon asked about it, but Loewer again found herself as a witness to history on March 20, 2003.
She was in the White House Situation Room the night the Iraq War started.
Loewer remembered the mood being “very nervous, very somber.”
A decade later, she believes the war had a purpose.
“It enabled people to govern themselves,” she said.
Iraq today is a democracy, she said. Factions that didn’t before have a voice do now.
Democracy in Iraq isn’t without challenges, “But it’s their democracy,” she said. “It’s for them to decide.”
Ten years later, the U.S. military also has been transformed. Gays and lesbians can serve openly. The final barriers keeping women from direct combat are gone.
The military, Loewer said, is better for it.
In 1979, she first reported to duty aboard a ship — one of just four women among 1,100 male crew members.
“The captain was a very seasoned old salt,” Loewer said. “He looked at us and this is what he said: ‘I didn’t ask for women on board my ship. I don’t want women on board my ship. But you’re here. XO, put them to work.’”
It’s safe to say Loewer pulled her weight, eventually getting to command ships of her own, including the USS Mount Baker, an ammo ship, and the USS Camden, a fast combat support ship.
“It was important to get through the door to let other women follow behind me,” she said.
Loewer ended her career as commander of the 28 ships, two helicopter squadrons and the unique marine mammals that make up the Navy’s mine warfare assets.
Her time at the White House remains the most significant period in her life, she said.
Like many of us, she seemingly can recall the events of 9/11 like they happened yesterday — only with details most of us can’t even imagine.
“Air Force One flew over Springfield, Ohio,” she revealed. “I had nothing to do with that.”