Comment Of The Day
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Wednesday, September 16, 1998

Sexual Reality Check. Men Shrug It Off.
Women Go Down Hard.

You remember Kelly Flinn, right? She was the first woman ever to pilot a B-52 bomber. But, she had an affair with an enlisted man and lied about it to a superior officer. She was drummed out of the service as "untrustworthy." After all, if you lie about sex, you can't be trusted with bombs, right?

Here is her letter of resignation, to the Secretary of the Air Force (who incidentally is from Marblehead. Massachusetts). I thought you might find it interesting:

Hon. Secretary Widnall,

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to put into words my love for the Air Force and devotion to the Air Force. It is with heartfelt agony and the deepest sadness I have ever felt that I submit my resignation from the Air Force.

I truly love the United States Air Force, and would like the opportunity to continue to serve my country. I realize that I have made mistakes and errors in judgment. I have learned so much from these mistakes, and through this entire experience. It is a huge personal loss for me, to be asking to resign from the United States Air Force. This is the hardest decision I have made in my life and it feels like a part of me has died. If given a choice, I would prefer to receive some form of non-judicial punishment, return to flight status, and continue to use all of the training I have received to benefit the Air Force and my country. I am not asking to be absolved of my mistakes. I am not asking to escape punishment. Leaving the Air Force is the worst punishment I can imagine. I would never intentionally do anything to bring discredit upon the Air Force. I truly fell deeply in love with a man who led me down the path of self-destruction and career destruction.

I have so much passion for the Air Force. I am an excellent officer, who has devoted my entire adult life to the Air Force. I entered the United States Air Force Academy at the age of 18, with the hope and dream of making the Air Force a career, and then possibly becoming a member of the astronaut corps. I still hold all of these hopes and dreams. I still hope, down deep inside, that there may be some better solution to my case, both for myself and the Air Force. It is difficult to put into words the passion I feel in my heart for this institution. It has encompassed me. I only want to serve my country and to be forgiven for my human faults. I don't think it's too much to ask. I only wish that someone in my chain of command would have asked what was happening in my life. Then they would have learned of the fear and the darkness in which I was living. I did not turn to anyone for help when I should have. Instead, I decided to handle the threats of a detestable man, and live in fear of him and his possible actions. That is where I showed my greatest weakness, and did not stand up for myself as a human being. That will never happen again. I have learned how to handle my personal decisions and to be more careful with my feelings.

I have dedicated my life to becoming an Air Force pilot. I have endured comments, videos ridiculing my arrival at Minot AFB, sexual molestation, and harassing comments, just to fly. I never wanted to be treated as something special, I just wanted the chance, as my counterparts have, to fly for the Air Force as a trained combat pilot. If there was anyway to undo all the wrongs, I would. Unfortunately, at this point, I can only learn from my mistakes and move forward with my life.

I would never wish my ordeal upon my worst enemy. Deep in my heart, I believe that no punishment the Air Force renders will every compare to the public humiliation I have suffered, the loss of my trust, and the loss of my innocence. Before this happened, I never dreamed that people like Marc Zigo existed. Perhaps that was my first mistake. Secondly, I myself, should have researched the legalities of the situation, instead of trusting his word. However, hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, I should have done many things differently. Lying was the worst possible action, yet I did not have the courage then to admit my faults and shortcomings. I now recognize them. I just wanted a chance to reconcile this situation and perhaps have the opportunity to redeem myself in the eyes of the Air Force.

I do have integrity. I now have the courage to admit my mistakes, in the public forum, move forward, take the lessons I have learned to heart. I have so much to offer this Air Force. I am an intelligent and dedicated worker. I have excelled in all of my activities since earning my Air Force wings. Perhaps I am feeling such a loss because I am an excellent B-52 pilot. I did not excel with the T-37 and T-38 programs. I made many mistakes during those training programs, but was able to learn from them and earn my wings. I took those lessons and applied them to the B-52 and excelled. I was exceptionally qualified to fly the B-52, a rating few pilots will ever earn. I was the distinguished graduate from my B-52 training class. More than anything, I wish that you would accept my apology and give me a second chance.

Madam, the thought of leaving the Air Force, never to set foot on another base, never to stand at attention as the Colors pass by, never to wear the wings of an Air Force pilot is the cause of my relentless tears, a punishment that I will live with the rest of my life.

Sincerely yours,

Kelly Flinn

Incidentally, adultery is considered a crime in the military, and adultery with a subservient enlisted person (or intern) is much worse. (Eisenhower did it, of course, with his female enlisted driver, with historic impunity.) Soon after the Flinn affair, another Air Force Officer, Lt. Col. Karen Tew, temporarily separated from her husband, also had an affair. Her prosecutor attacked her in personal terms: "She traded the integrity of the military professional for sexual desire. She traded the honor of wearing the uniform for lust." She was dismissed with loss of all benefits and pension just when her daughter was being treated for a brain tumor. Five days later she shot herself, her death before the official dismissal meant that Tew's valuable benefits were preserved for her children.

Before Flinn, thousands of officers escaped with reprimands, and the majority with no official notice at all. Another Air Force Lieutenant on the same base as Flinn was fined $6,000 and reprimanded after admitting an affair with his secretary.

When Flinn was ordered to stop seeing her lover, Marc Zigo, it was impossible to comply since they were living together. Zigo, to save himself, spilled everything, complete with drawings, in exchange for immunity. While Flinn went down, the lying, manipulative male, Zigo, still serves in the Air Force with no judgment or recorded prejudice against him.

In these days of Bill & Monica, I just thought you might like a little reality check. See you next time.

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