USS INTREPID, HUDSON RIVER, NEW YORK – At this year’s Army Navy Game, a long-standing tradition will continue, the “Prisoner Exchange” in which cadets and midshipmen who have spent the previous semester at the opposite academy meet at midfield and are “returned” to their respective academies.
Military Times talked with one such prisoner, a U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman and his twin brother, a U.S. Military Academy at West Point cadet, ahead of the game.
The Lowe brothers had some military service among their relatives, one great grandfather served in the Navy as an officer during World War II and made a 30-year career with the service.
Another great grandfather enlisted in Army and served in the infantry in World War II. A grandfather was an officer in the Navy during the Vietnam War while another grandfather served as enlisted in the Air Force in the late 1950s.
Despite that service, the men didn’t know much about the service academies until in their sophomore year at Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo, California they saw one of their teachers putting up fliers around the school about the service academies. The teacher’s son had recently graduated from West Point.
The pair were intrigued and began exploring options. They were good students, played sports and were involved in Boy Scouts, so they figured they might be good candidates. And they’d always talked about maybe going to the same college.
But that’s not exactly what happened.
“The Navy is a great service, but to me the diversity of opportunity in the Army, I felt that West Point was going to present a challenge as would life in the Army,” said Cadet Joshua Lowe.
Midshipman Jacob Lowe was drawn to the Naval Academy for similar reasons.
“For me, looking at four career choices, Surface Warfare Officer, aviation, submarines and the Marines, any of those coming out of the Naval Academy would be challenging,” Jacob Lowe said. “But naval aviation is my top choice.”
Joshua Lowe is studying economics and is working for an assignment eventually to the 75th Ranger Regiment with an eye on much of the advanced training and schools such a posting would offer, he said.
Jacob Lowe, is studying weapons, robotics and control engineering and hope to make it into the fixed wing side of naval aviation, he said.
It’s Jacob, the midshipman, who has spent the past semester as an exchange student at West Point.
He’ll be one of seven midshipmen at center field during the game for the prisoner exchange.
When both of the southern California boys arrived on the east coast for the summer before they started classes the football game rivalry was at the forefront of the training cadre’s messaging.
“It was Go Army, Beat Navy! During that week-long event,” Joshua said.
Everywhere he went, months away from that year’s actual game there was the Beat Navy tunnel, Beat Navy bread in the mess hall, he said.
His twin Jacob saw the same further south in Annapolis, Maryland, where the Naval Academy drilled that rivalry thinking, impressing upon the young man that they’re allies all year except for a few hours on that one day of “America’s Game.”
And the first year didn’t disappoint.
Cadets at the schools unfurl banners that say Beat Army or Beat Navy from their dormitory rooms.
The West Point cadets erect a wooden ship the week ahead of the game on campus and burn it to ashes during a later pep rally.
Even the cooks in the mess hall serve chow saying “Go Army, Beat Navy,” Joshua said.
During his plebeian, or freshman year, Jacob said upperclassmen would take furniture and other items out of their rooms and haul them two miles away, instructing the newbies that they had to get their room back in order before Taps played.
And while each of the football team’s home games was instantly special and marked the season, nothing quite compares to the big rivalry, they both said.
That first semester was unique for the pair, who’d been together since birth and apart for those trying months at their schools.
“The first semester I was away from my brother, we did link up at halftime for a couple of minutes,” Joshua said.
Jacob marked the halftime mix as a highlight of the week as well.
“The environment at halftime, the mingling of the two schools, every cadet in gray, the midshipmen in their black uniforms,” Jacob said. “There are relationships, cousins, brothers, close friends, we don’t have a lot of time to say high but it’s a unique opportunity.”
So, what do their parents do with this “house divided”?
Mom and dad each wear one of the son’s respective colors and the next year they switch sides, just to keep it even.
And after the prisoner exchange, when Jacob returns to his Navy comrades, he doesn’t exactly get to ride the bus back to Annapolis. He’s still got his things up in West Point. So, he’ll rejoin his brother for the trek to West Point.
It’s almost a certainty one will be happy, the other not-so-much, following the results of the 2021 matchup.
Note: Travel accommodations for Army Navy Game coverage were provided by USAA, a military-focused insurance company.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.