A woman’s place is aboard the ship for Navy veteran

BY MARIA SONNENBERG, Senior Life – Apr 5, 2023

The Navy that Lorena Dugan joined in 1979 was very different than today’s, at least in attitude toward those first women assigned to combat ships.

The men didn’t know what to make of them and their own wives and sweeties didn’t trust them with their men.

“The wives really didn’t want that first batch of women going to sea with their men,” Dugan said.

Dugan joined the Navy not because she craved seafaring adventures, but rather because the service offered her the best opportunity to work with computers without the wade of four years of college before actually working in the field. A military brat, Dugan was no stranger to living in different parts of the planet.

“I lived in 27 different places and I didn’t see anything wrong with that,” said Dugan, now firmly ensconced at Indian River Colony Club.

She met her first husband aboard a Navy ship and probably would have remained in the military longer than the five years, five months and 15 days she served, but her second baby didn’t have the best of timing.

“I was pregnant with my second child and was told my ship was leaving in six days to help with the Iran hostage crisis and that I needed to get my affairs in order,” she said.

At the time, if husband and wife were both on assignment, they would have to sign over custody of their children to someone else. Dugan would have none of that, so she left, but the military remains dear to her.

After a stint designing software and installing it on ships for the Department of Defense, Dugan, a single working mom for 15 years, earned a degree in psychology. And oh, she met David, a former Army captain and attorney who later retired as a circuit court judge.

“David is the perfect husband,” she said.

The couple are very active with Honor Flight, the national organization that transports vets to Washington, D.C. at no cost to celebrate their service to the country and to allow them to reflect at the war memorials in the Nation’s Capital.

“We wanted something that would affect lives, and Honor Flight is an organization that says if they’re going to do something, they do it,” she said.

The couple are on the board of Honor Flight and also vet and train guardian escorts who accompany the veterans on their flights. With six flights from Brevard annually carrying 30 veterans each, the two have plenty of vetting and training.

“About half of the vets don’t have any family members who can go with them,” she said.

Dugan remains grateful to the Navy for launching her career and providing her with a work ethic that served her well.

“They will teach you whatever you are willing to learn,” she said.

“I had a good time.”

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