because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Marie Rossi

Marie Rossi graduated from high school in New Jersey and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology at Dickinson College in 1981. Nothing remarkable that, right?

But she also signed up for and distinguished herself as a Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) member while she struggled with final exams and turning in papers like any other college student. Slightly more unusual, right?

The public record doesn't tell us much about Rossi's next ten years. But we know that, by 1991, she had become a Major in the Army Reserves, had learned how to fly CH-47 Chinook helicopters (which takes more than a year of hellified basic training), and had been named commander of B Company, 2nd Battalion, of the159th Aviation Regiment in the 18th Aviation Brigade. Now, that's in-your-face women territory!

On her way to lead her troops into battle in support of Operation Desert Shield by flying ammunition and fuel into Iraq under fire in the early hours of the assault, Major Rossi told CNN, "Sometimes, you have to disassociate how you feel personally about the prospect of going into war and, you know, possibly see the death that's going to be out there. But personally, as an aviator and a soldier, this is the moment that everybody trains for -- that I've trained for -- so I feel ready to meet [the] challenge."

Unfortunately, on the night of February 24, 1991, in a severe dust storm in northern Saudi Arabia, Major Rossi and her crew flew into a microwave tower and all of them perished. There are those who would see this in-your-face woman's death in combat inappropriate because she was a woman. But Major Rossi herself saw it differently. "What I'm doing," she once said, "is no greater or less than the man who is flying next to me...or in back of me." In-your-face women don't want special consideration. They just want the respect they earn.

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