Former First Lady Laura Bush had a special nickname for U.S. Secret Service Agent Megan Lowry: “Tall Meg.” Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches, Bush’s assessment is precise. Despite Lowry’s striking presence, it’s her outgoing personality that cannot be ignored. Lowry (BA ’19) recounts her journey from Oklahoma to The White House to receiving a sociology degree on TU’s graduation stage.
A straight shooter
Coming home from Bixby High School, Lowry was bursting with excitement. She had an announcement: “I know what I’m going to do with my life. I am going to join the Marine Corps.”
Although her mother and U.S. Marine veteran father were less enthused, Lowry joined the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. “I just knew what I wanted to do, and a year later, September 11 happened. That was the stamp on the envelope,” Lowry said.
Lowry’s calling was further solidified at boot camp. She had never held a firearm, but at boot camp graduation her “mother nearly fell out of her chair when I got an award for breaking the range record, and I was the company high shooter between the men and the women,” she laughed.
The Secret Service
As a joke, Lowry filled out an application to work at The White House, but the Secret Service wasn’t laughing. “I will never forget the phone call saying I had been accepted for an interview,” she smiled.
In a room of 600 candidates, the interviewers quickly narrowed the field. “They said, ‘If you ever got an F grade in school, if you have ever been expelled, if you ever had a speeding ticket, get up and leave the room,’” Lowry said.
Six hundred became 100, and later, it was whittled down to 18 applicants who had board interviews. “I was one of three selected people out of that board interview, and I was the only woman,” she added. “I ended up getting a Yankee white security clearance with presidential access and secret compartmented information.”
Lowry was Secret Service for President George W. Bush’s last term in office. From playing basketball with Bush to remembering his favorite Starburst flavors, Lowry got to know the First Family. “President Bush is like the grandpa you never had,” she said.
Trauma, and then more trauma
CONEX boxes are giant military shipping containers, and it is not uncommon for them to weigh as much as a car. While serving, Lowry was crushed under the full weight of several CONEX boxes. “I had four traumatic brain injuries and a dozen fractures to my face and head alone. My back had three disks that were pushed in and pinching my spinal cord. I would lose feeling in my legs,” Lowry said. “I ended up snapping the ligaments in both of my knees, and my right ankle was destroyed.”
The accident along with a sexual assault caused her to submit 28 disability claims that took nearly three years to process through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Going into the military during a time of war, you expect certain things to have to happen,” Lowry said. “I just wasn’t expecting military sexual trauma. When that happened, it was a completely different type of violation.”
A Marine in Lowry’s chain of command violently assaulted her. “The guy thought I was dead. He beat me that badly. He dumped my body on the side of the road,” she said.
Although she was nervous to report it for fear of being ostracized and labeled as a bad Marine, Lowry did not want to risk another woman being violated by the same officer. She was interrogated for two days and not given a rape examination.
Lowry calls it “the good ole’ boy system” that allowed the highest enlisted person in her chain of command to drop her off at the NCIS office and shake “the investigator’s hand and say, ‘Make sure this gets taken care of the right way.’”
Becoming an advocate
While waiting for her disability claims to process, Lowry worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Homeland Security, but post-traumatic stress disorder contaminated her career and personal life. She eventually left her job, but staying mute in the face of adversity is not Lowry’s style.
Working with California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Lowry told her story to news outlets and Congress, but PTSD haunted her every move. She eventually left Washington. Through a few tumultuous years – including a divorce and even culinary arts school – Lowry’s life vacillated between highs and lows.
“It got to a point where my PTSD was so bad that I couldn’t work. I was terrified to go to the grocery store,” Lowry revealed. “There were days where I never got out of bed.”
Lowry entered an inpatient program at a Houston VA medical center for women with complex chronic PTSD. “When I came back from that program, my uncle said it looked like somebody had reached in and turned the lights back on,” she said.
Feeling like herself, Lowry took sociology classes at Tulsa Community College and later transferred to TU. She not only excelled in the classroom but became an advocate for causes near to her heart: suicide prevention, TU’s Indigenous Society and veterans’ rights.
A few years before she went to college, Lowry’s father committed suicide. Using her pain as motivation, Lowry arranged a suicide awareness and prevention walk with 300 attendees that raised more than $7,000. “It was called the Purpose 2.2: The Powerful Unbreakable Resilient Person Overcoming Suicide Every Day. It was also 2 years and 2 days after my father’s suicide,” she explained.
When Lowry walks across campus, she has a friend at her side – a service dog named Remy. Lowry trains PTSD, stability, depression and anxiety dogs for veterans. She teaches dogs to block and even wake-up a veteran who is having a nightmare. “With my back and leg problems, Remy can help me get up the stairs. I can hook a handle onto him, and he can actually pull me up,” she smiled. “He’s a living, breathing, furry cane.”
Lowry lives her life for others. Her dedication to veterans’ rights is unwavering, and after graduation, Lowry and Remy will attend the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa’s master of social work program and to earn a certificate in social work for Native Americans.
Marred by trauma, her story is at times heartbreaking; but armed with her diploma and a tremendous sense of self, Lowry stands tall and resilient.