Military Fly Moms
For the past seven years, Linda Maloney, a retired naval aviator, and seventy other women collaborated on a special project—telling their individual stories as female military aviators and mothers. The culmination of this extensive process is a coffee-table book called Military Fly Moms.
Although the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) served during World War II, the first female aviators to support the U.S. military, their organization was disbanded when the men started coming home. As with most young people serving during the war years, these amazing young pilots, although many would have preferred to keep on flying, went home, got married, raised families, and generally put their war years behind them. In 1977, after a long legislative campaign, they were recognized by Congress as American military veterans. These 1,074 WASP had flown every single aircraft in the U.S. military inventory, ferried aircraft from coast to coast, and trailed banners behind their planes for artillery trainees to shoot at. Thirty-eight of them died in training flights or while on missions. In 2010, Congress awarded each of the WASP its highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.
For nearly thirty years after WWII, even though women had been slowly gaining permanent status in the military since the Army Nurse Corps had been established in 1901, no women flew again in any kind of military capacity. In 1972, the services could no longer defend the notion that they had no use for female pilots, especially considering the numerous noncombat roles and missions that existed. The first Navy women to pin on the gold wings of an aviator did so in 1973, and the first female Army aviator graduated with her wings in 1974. The Air Force followed suit with ten female pilots earning aviator wings in 1977. From that first group of female Navy pilots, Jane Skiles O’Dea became the first female naval aviator to have a baby while on active duty. One of the women in Military Fly Moms, O’Dea also wrote the foreword, where she says, “My daughters grew up with a mom who wore a flight suit to work every day and they thought that was perfectly normal.”
Towards the end of her Navy career, Maloney married and became a mom. She says, “As I packed away my flight gear in the basement just a few months after having my first son, I thought about the legacy, as a mom who’d enjoyed a very unique career, that I would pass down to him.” Thinking about women military aviators who had also been mothers she had known, Maloney wondered how these women managed to combine such an intensely challenging career as military aviation with the even more challenging one of motherhood. And so her vision of passing on a legacy from this elite group of women was born, to which she devoted countless hours over the years while having her second son, working full-time, moving to another state, volunteering, mentoring, and fulfilling other modern-life duties and obligations.
Each woman in Military Fly Moms provided Maloney with her own personally written story, describing her family background, her education, how and when she became struck by aviation, her military experience, how she became a military aviator, her military aviation experiences, her entry into motherhood, and the balance she tried to maintain in both worlds. It is clear through the stories related in Military Fly Moms that not a single woman found the entire experience to be easy enough to sail through without obstacles or learning experiences. For most, an encouraging parent sent her on her path; a partnering husband supported her to keep following her dreams; and her children sustained her faith in herself. Many times, an aviator mom exited the military to focus on her family, only to find that she needed to return to the cockpit, and often did, whether in the Reserve or Guard, or with a civilian airline. Regardless of the enormous obstacles most faced in achieving their goals, they all persevered, and the most important lesson resonating throughout the stories is, “Don’t ever give up!”
About the Author: Linda Maloney, one of the first women in U.S. history to join a combat military flying squadron, is the recipient of numerous military awards, including the distinguished Air Medal for combat. Along with her passion to share the stories from Military Fly Moms, Linda is a motivational speaker highlighting the importance of passing down a lasting legacy to future generations. She is also actively involved in several mentoring programs in which she encourages young people, especially young women, to reach for the stars. She recently started My Mom Flies, a women/mom-focused company, which encourages and supports moms who are managing family and career priorities while striving to achieve balance in their lives. She and her husband have three children.