Penn Hills grad soars in first all-female flyover for Rosemary Mariner
Those two simple words will forever be the ones Leslie Mintz, a 1996 Penn Hills High School graduate, will remember from the day she was involved in the funeral of one of the nation’s most beloved aviators.
Mintz, a weapons system operator for naval fighter jets at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, was one of nine women who participated in a Missing Man Flyover in Maynardville, Tenn. during retired Navy Capt. Rosemary Mariner’s funeral on Feb. 2.
Mariner served as one of the Navy’s first female pilots and was the first woman to command a naval aviation squadron. She later became instrumental in lifting the ban on women serving in combat.
Mariner died Jan. 24 in Knoxville, Tenn. after a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 65.
The flyover was the first ever to include all female aviators. The planes flown during Mariner’s flyover were F/A-18 Super Hornets.
Mintz, 41, said all she could say to women like Mariner is “thank you.”
“The work they did really just allowed me to have a career where I didn’t have to worry about those policies they fought so hard for,” she said.
“All the barriers (Mariner) faced, I truly have not had to face. Now, people in the military only care about how good you are. They don’t care about gender, race or ethnicity – just about your tactical ability,” Mintz said.
And now, as a mother, Mintz said she can truly tell her 2-year-old daughter “the sky is the limit.”
“There’s nothing you can’t do with hard work,” Mintz said.
Mintz was halfway through her high school career when the first women entered into aviation combat units in all the services in 1994. The change followed Congress’s 1991 decision to repeal combat exclusion laws — a move in which Mariner is credited with having a leadership role, according to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Mariner most recently served as a scholar-in-residence with the university’s Center for the Study of War and Society.
Around the same time the laws were changing, then-high schooler Mintz began considering the Navy as a career option.
“There were some Naval ROTC students that came to school and talked to us,” she said.
Mintz, who has two family members who also served in the Navy, graduated from, the University of Virginia with a degree in systems engineering in 2000, when she also was commissioned in the Navy after deciding she wanted to be a combat aviator.
She now serves as executive officer of the Strike Fighter Squadron 213 in Virginia Beach and has logged over 2,800 flight hours.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dillonswriting.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, email@example.com or via Twitter .