When the Lowe brothers stand face to face, they each see the spitting image of each other as if either is looking into a mirror. Telling them apart is easier as they both dress in different operational camouflage patterns due to their respective military academy allegiances, but even with the Army-Navy rivalry at the forefront of their world, the close siblings are truly brothers in arms determined to serve admirably one day for each of their services.
The Cadets and Midshipmen faced each other Saturday for the 122nd annual Army-Navy Game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Navy came away with the 17-13 victory on the gridiron, but it was a day of reflection being 20 years since 9/11 and the game being played within the view of the New York skyline that was forever changed on that day in 2001.
In the 20 years since, the two teams that battle on the “fields of friendly strife” became one on the battlefield and a true “brothers in arms” as Army and Navy have worked hand and hand during the War on Terror in the following years. Not lost in the rivalry are 20-year-old identical twins from Mission Viejo, California, who were only about two months old when 9/11 occurred, but they are now focused on the mission ahead beyond the walls of West Point and Annapolis.
Class of 2023 Cadet Josh Lowe and Class of 2023 Midshipman Jacob Lowe’s journey in life began as premature babies born about eight weeks early and spent about three and a half weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. If their initial breaths in this world wasn’t hectic enough, the brothers birth mother gave them up for adoption to Jennifer and Dave Lowe, who didn’t even meet the birth mother until two days before they were born or knowing she was about to have twins.
“As you can imagine, going from zero to two kids instantly was pretty chaotic,” Dave said about the experience. “We suddenly had to get two of everything and learn how to parent two at the same time. My wife was amazing though, but we were quick learners.”
As they grew and the years led toward high school, they both found success academically and found their niche in cross country among other sports.
“I think running and their competitive nature in training together and competing against each other was a seed that drew them both to the academies,” Dave said. “Mainly because the emphasis that is placed on physical training.”
The first steps toward West Point and Annapolis
While Dave and Jennifer didn’t serve in the military, they had family members who did, including both of their fathers. However, none of them attended a service academy. Dave was aware of both academies when he was in high school, but he said, “nobody in my sphere encouraged me to consider it as a college or career choice, so I didn’t pursue it.”
Dave was the first in his family to graduate from college, and he said elite institutions like West Point and Annapolis weren’t talked about because college wasn’t considered an automatic step in his family growing up.
Nevertheless, chance came knocking at the door during Josh and Jacob’s freshman year in high school through an Academy Service Night event at their high school.
A physics teacher at their high school, Claire Eichenberg, started talking to them when they noticed her putting up flyers up at school about finding a way to pay for college. They would find out that she had a son, Neal, who attended West Point and graduated in 2016.
“She talked to us on what he went through,” Jacob said. “She said this is what his file looked like, and this is where you guys stack up at the beginning of your sophomore year, so we had a lot of time left in high school.
“But she said here is stuff I would have told him, if I had known that type of thing then,” Jacob added. “She guided us through the whole process.”
The Lowes would continue to attend the Academy Service Nights and meet those who spoke about West Point as field force representatives to include U.S. Military Academy graduates, Class of 1970 Paul Dixon and Class of 2007 Mark Boychak.
As Jacob put it, they both continued on the train toward West Point as they both went to the Summer Leader Experience at West Point before their senior year of high school.
“In terms on deciding on schools, we were very much die-hard West Point,” Jacob said. “Then, about October of our senior year, we both ran cross country and track with the goal to get recruited to run for an academy as we figured that would give us a leg up.
“It wasn’t like we were going to school to run, but it would serve well if academics didn’t get us in and you can have that recruit status that can help you in the admissions process,” he added.
Jacob received a call from the Navy cross country/track coach, while he couldn’t guarantee he could get him into Annapolis, he did guarantee him a spot on the team if he got accepted, which is something West Point didn’t guarantee.
“Getting into (Navy) and being able to run was kind of a bonus, but if we can do that together it would be a neat thing,” Jacob said. “I got into Navy around December, after we took visits, and (Josh) got into West Point around March.”
They both tried to get into the same school, but Jacob was disqualified medically from West Point due to a stress fracture in his foot, which was a recent injury at that time, and basically was told while it was healing, they didn’t want the injury to return, so his destiny was on the road to Annapolis.
Josh, who visited each academy, including the Coast Guard Academy, knew for him that, “West Point was going to challenge me the most.”
“I wanted to have a career in the Army,” Josh said. “I wanted to go into one of the Army branches. Obviously, the Coast Guard and Navy are excellent services, but I saw myself being in the Army. I felt that is what was going to push me the most and develop me the most as a person.”
Creating their own identities
Jacob settled into Annapolis while performing for cross country and track for a year, unfortunately due to a faster recruiting class coming in he was cut from the team before his sophomore year last year.
Josh hasn’t competed in cross country or track at West Point, but in his plebe year, he found his niche by competing in Sandhurst.
“I was like, Sandhurst, I’m not sure what that is but it sounds kind of fun,” Josh said. “I went to the Sandhurst tryout, and they were doing a RPFT, a Ranger Physical Fitness Test. There was running, pullups, pushups, sit-ups and all the firsties and cows on the team were super inclusive, really inviting and since my first semester plebe year, I have done Sandhurst.”
Prior to all that transpiring, their journey together split into two as they chose different paths to a military career.
Jacob, who is a Weapons, Robotics and Control Engineering major and hopes to become an aviator flying fixed-wing jets, started the journey with his Induction Day, a couple days before Josh began Reception Day at West Point in the summer of 2019.
Growing up, the longest they had been apart was maybe 12 hours, Jacob said, and while they didn’t want to be apart, “it was just the way it’s going to be.”
“I remember hugging him and we were both tearing up a little bit,” Jacob said. “At first, it was pretty tough, but I think over time we have learned to appreciate it.”
Josh, who is an economics major who hopes to branch finance and post with the 75th Ranger Regiment, agreed with his brother’s sentiment that them being apart helped them grow as people.
“I think separating was best for our development as individuals,” Josh said. “We’ve known other twins who went to college together and get out of college and want to find a job together, which is not always easy. I think that first semester my plebe year was pretty hard being apart, but overall, going to separate academies has been best for our personal development.”
Each of them had their trials and tribulations assimilating into their academies and the obligations expected of them during their plebe years. They both were starting to hit their stride when the COVID pandemic hit and they finished the semester remotely at their home in California.
The time back together, while brief in those three months, got them focused on the job at hand in terms of motivation while not at the academies.
“We weren’t in a typical academy environment … but having him in the same room as me, if I slacked off and I’d see him doing his work, instantly I would go, ‘OK, I need to get back to my homework and get back to steady work habits.’” Josh said. “Having him there and seeing how efficient he was definitely motivated me to get back to my homework. My grades actually went up the second semester of my plebe year because I was pretty focused with what I was doing. Seeing him do his work pushed me to do better.”
One of the more important things was Jacob proved to be a good conscious for Josh as Josh explained that if they were taking a test and the desire to cheat crept in that having him there was, “a constant reminder that I was not in the academy environment, and you can’t cheat or go below the standard.”
Being motivated was not just limited to their studies, staying in shape when all the gyms were closed was not easy, but they had to do things on their own, which provided a source of inspiration.
“Physically, granted I didn’t have access to Arvin (Gym) or access to any of the cadet physical fitness opportunities, but every time after class, I was, ‘hey, do you want to run, do you want to go lift,ʼ so having him with me was having that built in someone there to push me,” Josh said. “Having someone to motivate me, obviously I feel like I’m internally driven, but having him there I felt made me more efficient for that semester.”
Jacob talked about when he was dealing with his plebe summer, he used his brother as his motivation to get through each tough moment he encountered.
“I would be doing pushups or in the front leaning rest position, but I would envision Josh right next to me,” Jacob said. “Maybe he wasn’t there in person, but I’m not going to quit until he quits and, obviously, I know he is not quitting so I am stuck here doing this.
“When we were home in high school, it was a comparison thing, like, ‘oh, how much work is he doing, why can’t he just take a break, why can’t we just chill?” Jacob added. “But being apart made us miss each other more, so going back home (during COVID) it was much like he is getting his work done, I’ve got to get my work done, too. I wanted to sleep in a little bit more sometimes, but he’s like, ‘let’s go for a workout, let’s get these pushups out.’”
In seeing all this, their dad is amazed and extremely proud of their character and the hard work they have displayed to get to this point in their lives.
“I’m proud of the risks they have taken, the work and discipline they put in to achieve their goal of getting into such elite institutions,” Dave said.
Back together again … at West Point
This semester added a twist to the cadet and midshipman career of the Lowe brothers when Jacob was accepted as one of seven Midshipmen to come to West Point as part of the academy exchange program.
There was an adjustment period for Jacob with the subtle differences between both academies such as the use of the Thayer Method, which is learning a subject for homework and going to class to discuss what you learned, as opposed to a traditional college where instructors lecture and then the students go and do their homework, which is the method Annapolis uses, or performing the ACFT, the Army Combat Fitness Test, as opposed to the PRT, physical readiness test, at Annapolis, which focuses on pushups, a plank and a run rather than the strength platforms the Army uses in the ACFT.
“For some people, who played football in high school or if they are more akin to weightlifting strength and power, then they’ll go into the Naval Academy and really struggle,” Jacob said. “On the flip side, for me coming here as a runner, and having the ACFT, it was funny because my company officer at the beginning of the semester was very involved with our Sandhurst team. The reason I went out for it … I’m like if I’m here, I want to get the full West Point experience.
“I did Sandhurst and he was like, ‘you got to get stronger, you look a little small right now,’” he added. “With weightlifting, I don’t even know where to start … however, I feel physically, I wouldn’t say it is harder, I feel the Army versus the Navy, they train you for a different physical mission. The Army is very much you have to be with your unit and physically keep up like rucking.”
The remarkable thing is Jacob impressed his Company I-2 Sandhurst mates during tryouts when he finished two to three minutes ahead of everyone else in his group during the ruck, especially when he felt they might have doubted his ability to keep up.
“I showed up with this (Navy) uniform on during the tryout, and I think they were assuming I would be toward the back,” Jacob said. “I was trying to be optimistic, but that first day I just did well — it’s funny how that works out because no one expected much from me. I exceeded expectations on that.”
Josh competed with the Company E-4 Sandhurst team. He was the only upperclassmen on the team leading a group of plebes and yearlings. After talking with the Brigade Sandhurst Officer, he was told I-2 and C-3 companies would probably be the best in the Corps to place in the top 12 and advance from the fall Sandhurst competition to the Spring Sandhurst competition.
“With a lot of young people on our Sandhurst team, we were going to try our hardest and while we may not make it to the spring, we were going to give it our best effort,” Josh said. “And, for E-4, we placed ninth in the fall competition, so we will go onto the spring competition. It is kind of funny because I-2 didn’t advance into the spring competition.”
Jacob said it was more of a tactical error on I-2’s part because they focused more on making sure guys were proficient in shooting, casualty care and how to memorize things to convey as a leader.
“That is where they lucked out,” Jacob said. “The competition was very physical in terms of a lot of running, body weight exercises while there wasn’t much on technical skills for as much as my team was anticipating. It is funny it ended up working out because his team were underdogs and they ended up advancing. Props to E-4.”
Jacob has settled into the variety of things West Point has to offer, especially drilling and marching in parades. He was amused at one of the pass in reviewʼs that involved alumni as he got razzed for being a midshipman mixed into the Corps of Cadets.
“As I passed them by, they were, ‘oh, that is a squid,’ we don’t like you Navy, giving me a hard time,” Jacob said. “Keep your bearing, why are you smiling, oh, Go Army! They gave me a hard time.”
But, at the same time, he and his brother have had fun at others expenses due to being twins and people being confused as to why Josh would be wearing a Navy uniform.
“People would go, ‘Hi, and why are you wearing the Navy uniform,’ … I would have no idea who they were, and they would keep getting us mixed up,” Jacob said. “They’d see him and go why did I see you in the Army uniform, it has been a fun semester.”
Overall, Josh loved having his brother here to experience the environment and traditions like football or Branch Week while getting to enjoy weekends in town going to the Hacienda Restaurant or taking a pass to New York City.
“It’s been so much fun. This has been definitely my best semester at West Point with regards to getting out and having fun,” Josh said. “However, it has gone by so quick, but the fact that he’s been here — it’s been great.”
Jacob added on his exchange experience at West Point, “In terms of academics, military and physical, the usual things, it was a great experience, but also meeting people through him and messing with people made it better. This is the longest we’ve been together since high school … having him here has made it 10 times better.”
The Army-Navy Game Experience
The Army-Navy Game started back in 1890 and every year can offer a unique experience. This year, with the game in New Jersey, it was the third different venue that the Lowe brothers experienced for the game.
Jacob recalled their first year in Philadelphia, pre-COVID, when they experienced a full stadium with the sea of Midshipmen and the rows of Cadets.
“I felt that environment was so electric,” Jacob said. “You get there, get off the buses and it’s a very big thing with the president being there, you have all these important general and admirals there. It’s a great experience to be a part of, it makes you proud looking back with this game going on for so many years — it makes you proud to be a part of the tradition.”
Last year was different because COVID caused the game to be moved to West Point, which was the first time an academy hosted the game instead of a neutral site since World War II. The experience allowed them to meet up for 15 minutes prior to the game.
“Overall, seeing the Army-Navy Game at Michie Stadium was such a different feeling. Just having the midshipmen and the cadets only, it was such a great experience,” Josh said. “It was extremely memorable. The fact that COVID happened wasn’t great, but the ability to have Army-Navy at Michie Stadium, that’s definitely been my favorite football memory at West Point.”
Jacob quickly retorted, “It was better for him,” due to Army winning 15-0 on the field. They both chuckled at the response.
Both brothers were impressed by their team’s uniforms that they wore on gameday this year with Navy honoring their fixed wing aviation jet, the F-18 Hornet.
“I think it’s been a while since they did an aviation-related uniform, so I know a lot of my friends back at the academy who want to be pilots and are hoping to get that for their service selection are stoked about it,” Jacob said. “I think it’s such a great uniform. When you think of Navy, you think Top Gun and going fast and landing on carriers.”
The Army uniform paid homage to Special Forces units who sacrificed so much post-9/11 and what they did in Afghanistan in the days, weeks and months after the War on Terrorism began.
“The War on Terror has always been a part of our lives, even before we were at the academies,” Josh said. “At the (U.S. Military Academy), we learned what Special Forces did and their impact on the War on Terror within Afghanistan and Iraq. I think it’s great to see this jersey honoring this special unit … since so much of the operations post-9/11 were conducted by Special Forces units, and to see them get that kind of respect and have that exposed to the world is great.
“And the fact the game is being played so close to Ground Zero, I think it’s both very symbolic and very powerful to the citizens of New York and New Jersey,” he added.
The one added bonus this year that the twins were looking forward to was Jacob being a part of the prisoner exchange that takes place on the field prior to kickoff where the exchange cadets and midshipmen enter back into their familiar territory for the game.
“With this year’s prisoner exchange, it’s going to be cool to see him march out there knowing he’s my brother,” Josh said.
Jacob anticipated joining his new company members, who he has yet to see this academic year.
“I’m in a totally new company and I’ve yet to meet them, so it’ll be nice to do the prisoner exchange and look forward to running back to the sea of midshipmen,” Jacob said. “It goes from sticking out at West Point to meeting my new company mates. It’ll be great to be back with the home team.”
This was also the first time their parents attended the Army-Navy Game.
“This is our first Army-Navy Game live, so we’re totally excited to experience the tradition and rivalry in person,” Jennifer said.
Dave said that he is like Switzerland, he takes no sides.
“I’ll be rooting for both teams equally,” Dave said. “When you have twins, you have to make sure you don’t play favorites — so I’m the kind of person who thinks everyone is a winner. I’m that mom who thinks everyone should get a participation trophy!”
The Epilogue into the Future
Dave and Jennifer, who have worked for a global Christian non-profit organization called Cru for 30-plus years each, are very proud of their children for their character and hard work they’ve displayed to get to this point in their lives and to see what the future holds for each of them.
“I’m incredibly excited for the leadership and development opportunities that they have been given and that are still before them,” Dave said. “We are unbelievably proud of the commitment they are making to serve their country. More importantly, I’m proud of the young men they are becoming. I think they will represent their country well.”
While they are still three full semesters, or a year and a half, away from graduation, they are excited about their future ahead while knowing not to be complacent about where they are at.
“I know one thing (former Commandant of Cadets, Brig.) Gen. (Curtis) Buzzard used to say is, ‘you can be proud of yourself, but never be satisfied,” Josh said. “Coming to West Point, with all the opportunities I’ve had or all the great people I’ve been able to meet, I’m definitely proud where I am, but I’m always looking forward toward the future and looking at ways to improve myself and what I can do to set myself up for the future.”
Knowing the sacrifices his grandfather made as a member of the Navy, Josh said it makes him proud to know that he’ll be a part of the Army profession and his brother with the Navy.
“I think it’s cool knowing that we’re contributing to the same goal of protecting America and keeping its freedoms available to everyone,” Josh said. “It makes me proud to know that him and the Naval Academy are contributing to the same goal as West Point and the Corps of Cadets.”
Jacob piggybacked off of Josh’s thoughts by saying, “I think we take all the privileges the country offers us for granted or the sacrifices that other people made … what I want to do in the Navy is make sure that the people in the United Sates are able to maintain those freedoms. I want to give back to the country that has given me so much.
“I want to make sure I’m not there to ride the benefits of someone else’s work,” he added. “I want to make sure I’m contributing so others can have those same benefits as I’ve enjoyed my entire life.”
And despite the rivalry that Army and Navy brings to the field, there is the respect that is recognized by all involved once the games are done and the work as service members begins.
“At the end of the day, we may give each other a bit of flak … but we appreciate what the other is doing,” Jacob said. “For one day, we are rivals, but at the end of the day, we are on the same team. Sometimes, for as much as I would like to say Navy is better, I appreciate what the Army does.”
(Editorʼs note: The tense of this story changes at times due to the interviews with the Lowe brothers taking place prior to the Army-Navy Game and the story appearing post the Army-Navy Game.)