East Tenn. remembers life and legacy of Navy’s first female jet pilot

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East Tennessee remembered the life of a naval aviation trailblazer Saturday. Captain Rosemary Mariner served as the Navy’s first female jet pilot. 

She died last month. She’d battled cancer for 5 years. 

To honor her legacy, the Navy conducted the first ever all-female flyover. Captain Mariner was also laid to rest with full military honors. 

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Elizabeth Kuebel shows us this historic day through the eyes of the women flying for the late captain, as well as those who knew her best.

History was made in East Tennessee Saturday to honor a woman who made history, herself. Captain Rosemary Mariner was the Navy’s first female jet pilot. 

“I’m not even sure she realizes the magnitude of what the impact that she left and her legacy. All of us here today are here doing what we do, because of her,” said CDR Leslie Mintz, VFA-213.

The Navy paid tribute to Mariner’s legacy in a way they never have before, conducting the first ever all female flyover from Andersonville to Alcoa. 

“From all over the country, from all different backgrounds, and not only that, we had female maintainer crews launch us at home from NAS Oceana. So all of our ground personnel, our maintainers, even our ground-based air controller today was a woman,”  LCDR Paige Blok, VFA-32, said. “Of course it’s a solemn moment in that we’re memoralizing Captain Mariner and all of her wonderful accomplishments, but it was a wonderful way to pay tribute to her legacy.”

Captain Mariner died in January, after a five year battle with ovarian cancer. She was laid to rest with full military honors. 

And while her list of accomplishments is lengthy her husband says that’s not all she wanted to be remembered for.

“She didn’t want to be looked at as exceptional. She wanted the door to open and other people to march through,” Tommy Mariner said. 

“Rosie herself never sought out these kinds of honors or recognition particularly, but I think she would still be pleased that this was happening, not just for herself, but because of the advances that it represents for women in the military,” said Joellen Oslund, retired U.S. Navy captain.

This day was a clear indication of the trail Mariner blazed for the women who followed in her footsteps, and for those still to come.

“I hope it’s an encouragement to the youth that you really can do anything that you put your mind to, so long as you’re dedicated and you work hard, regardless of your gender or your ethnicity, that doors are open,” Blok said.

Captain Mariner has deep ties to East Tennessee. Not only did she live in Norris, but she was also a Tennessee Volunteer. On its Twitter account, UT posted that Rosemary Mariner was a resident UT scholar and former lecturer. 

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