Throughout history, we have witnessed several powerful women who ignited a movement and fought for positive change, greatly impacting the community through their bold ideas for reform. These campaigns were pursued so that women can have a better place in the world and gain equal access to opportunities as men do. One such example of a strongwoman is Rosemary Mariner.
Rosemary Bryant Mariner is a retired Navy Captain who died at 65 years old on January 24, after a long battle with ovarian cancer. But Mariner is not just a regular Navy Captain – she is the first female jet pilot and the “first female military aviator to achieve command of an operational air squadron,” according to a Navy statement.
To honor Mariner’s legacy, she will receive the first-ever all-female flyover at her funeral. The special tribute officially named as the “Missing Man Flyover,” is made to honor aviators who have served their country. It involves four jets flying above a funeral service in formation before one of the aircraft peels away and climbs into the sky.
Mariner was born in Harlingten, Texas in 1953 and raised in San Diego, California. After her father – an Air force pilot – was killed in a plane crash, she washed airplanes to make money for flying lessons in a small field in San Diego. Her hard work paid off and she graduated from Purdue University at age 19 with a degree in aeronautics.
In 1973, Mariner and five other women entered officer candidacy school after the Navy opened its flight school to women. According to the Navy, the six were the first women in any military branch to earn their wings.
After flight school, Mariner became the Navy’s first female jet pilot, but she was not allowed to legally fly a jet. This changed in 1978, when the landmark legal case, Owens vs. Brown, ruled that the policy prohibiting women from serving aboard Navy vessels was unconstitutional.
In 1982, Mariner was among the first women to serve aboard USS Lexington – a US Navy warship. She was also one of the first to qualify as a surface war officer.
Mariner earned her master’s degree in National Security Strategy in 1990 from the National War College in Washington, DC. She then served on the Staff of the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon. At that time, Mariner was pregnant with her daughter and was known for fighting for women in combat. After she left the Navy, she became a professor at the University of Tennessee where she continued to lobby for women’s rights in the military.
2014 marked the year when women were finally permitted to fly combat missions. But after that breakthrough, another door opened – the women were eventually allowed to fly commercial airlines after their military service ended.
Joellen Oslund, a fellow naval officer who was also instrumental in lifting restrictions on women in combat told CNN, “Everyone who went into civilian aviation owes their career to Rosemary. Also, women with aviation experience in politics would not have that opportunity available without [her] legacy.”
A woman who never stopped fighting for reform and opened up opportunities for females in aviation – that is Rosemary Mariner. For her accomplishments to be honored and remembered in the form of this beautiful tribute is just fitting for this strongwoman – who did everything in her power for women to be acknowledged as equals in the aviation industry.
Watch the video below from Fox News to witness the first-ever all-female flyover at Captain Rosemary Mariner’s funeral. May she rest in peace.