Some people are born at the right time in history, who are moved by dreams of one kind or another and who have the right skills and determination to live into those dreams so well as to change some small portion of the world. Rosemary Mariner was one of those people.
Mariner’s father, a pilot, died in an airplane crash when she was three years old. At that age there is not enough conscious life in you to have sharp memories, but something stuck with her about her father that would remain with her for the rest of her life.
She wanted to fly.
Before she was even licensed to drive a car, Mariner learned how to fly. She washed planes to get the funds to take the lessons. When she got old enough and had finished her university studies, she joined the United States Navy and started a long career of firsts for women in the military.
Mariner, whose call name was “Viper,” would become the first woman to fly a tactical fighter jet in the Navy, then the first woman to land and take off from aircraft carriers. She would fly combat sorties during Desert Strom and would be the first woman in Navy history to command a squadron.
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Over the course of her career in the United States Navy she would fly over 3,500 flight hours in the Navy’s most sophisticated fighter planes. Her skills were second to none and her leadership abilities were deeply admired.
At her funeral in the early part of this year, there was a traditional “missing man” flyover performed by an all female team of fighter pilots. That is how much her life and career had changed the Navy and the military in terms of letting women into the combat fighter pilot and leadership ranks. She had, indeed, changed her small part of the world for the better.
Mariner retired from the Navy as a Captain in 1997. She died in February at the age of 65, after a long fight with cancer.
The Veterans Site sends its belated condolences to the family of Rosemary Mariner. We thank her for her service, for her love and dedication to our country, and for what she did for women over her long and very successful career.
May you now know the peace of “Fair Winds and Following Seas” that is beyond our meager understanding.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.