Right on. It seems that H2o Man is making something out of nothing here. What's the big deal?
The big deal is that military personnel are conditioned to refer to those higher in the chain of command as EITHER "Sir"/"Ma'am," or by their title. Meaning an enlisted person would call a lieutenant "Sir"/"Ma'am" or "lieutenant." However, based on the context of the situation it might strike a military person to use Ma'am, rather than Senator. Both show respect. In answering a question with an affirmative or negative reply, "Yes, Sir," or "No, Sir" is considered more correct that "Yes, lieutenant," or "No, lieutenant" (which can be taken to sound pedantic, and disrespectful, perhaps, since there is nothing more clear in the military for respect than "Sir," or "Ma'am."
This is what I remember. If it has changed, I would not know. However, Senator Boxer should understand these things as a woman in her position. She cut A GENERAL no slack. In my opinion, that is shameful! She gets to sleep at night, without fear of enemies coming over a hill, because of the tireless hours that military officers put into their careers.
And, based on her taking umbrage in the first place, I would not think she would be willing to apologize, since humility and umbrage are usually diametrically opposites when analyzing a personality.
Senator Boxer never had to say, "Private Boxer reporting as ordered, Sir!" I would guess.