Funeral for Navy’s first female jet pilot to be held in East Tennessee

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The United States Navy’s first female jet pilot will be laid to rest in East Tennessee after a five-year bout with cancer. 

Capt. Rosemary Mariner, United States Navy, Retired, will be laid to rest with full military honors at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church between Maynardville and Andersonville Saturday, February 2.  

The Navy will also conduct their first ever all-female flyover to honor the Naval pioneer. Officially referred to as a “Missing Man Flyover,” this tribute honors the service of aviators who have died serving their country. The maneuver features four aircraft flying above the funeral service in formation as one of the aircraft leaves the formation and climbs vertically into the heavens.

After completing flight training in 1974, Mariner was designated a naval aviator and received her Wings of Gold, flying the A-4E/L “Skyhawk” and the A-7E “Corsair II”.  She also was the first female military aviator to achieve command of an operational air squadron.  During Operation Desert Storm, Mariner commanded Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron Thirty-Four (VAQ-34).  In 1982, she reached yet another milestone by being among the first females to serve aboard a U.S. Navy warship, USS Lexington, and qualifying as a Surface Warfare Officer.

Mariner retired from the U.S. Navy in 1997 after obtaining the rank of Captain and logging seventeen carrier arrested landings, or “traps,” and completing over 3,500 flight hours in fifteen different aircraft.

Mariner died on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, following a five-year battle with ovarian cancer as her husband and wingman of 40 years, Tommy Mariner, sat by her side. 

“She was my commanding officer in the Navy,” Tammie Jo Shults told WATE. “One of the things that I so admired about her was she wasn’t a champion of women, she was a champion of people. And in her squadron the great divide between races and genders, it was invisible.”

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