Kelly Flinn, author of Proud to Be: My Life, The Air Force, The Controversy, was born on December 23, 1970, in St. Louis, Missouri. When she was 12, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from high school in 1989. On June 29, 1989, she entered the United States Air Force Academy and began her active-duty career in the U. S. Air Force. She graduated form the Academy on June 2, 1993, and then went on the Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus Air Force Base. In September 1995 she was the Distinguished Graduate in her B-52 formal Training Unit.
She was then stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. On May 28, 1997, Kelly J. Flinn resigned from active duty instead of facing a court martial. Growing up wasnt always easy for Kelly. She was the baby of the family, with four older brothers and sisters. Sitting in Catholic school, she tried to be the cute little girl she was supposed to be but on the playground, she was a terror. At the age of 5, she joined her first soccer league, which happened to be a boys team. Things stayed the same way until she got to high school. She began to notice boys and began to date.
No one in her family had ever talked to her about the birds and the bees, or even about dating. Instead, independence, self-reliance, and strength were the most important things. If they had problems, they worked it out on their own. This served her poorly when she found herself in trouble with the Air Force years later. (pg. 9) When Kelly was 15, she went to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. She found out how much she loved space and the challenge and the control she experienced. After Space Camp, she knew what she had to do and how to do it. She was going to go to the Air Force Academy and learn how to fly.
She spent the next years in high school studying, joining clubs, and filling out applications. In late spring of her senior year, she finally got her acceptance letter. Then, a few weeks later, she received a letter from the Academy that she wasnt qualified to be a pilot because of her poor vision. I felt as if I had be sent to hell after a quick taste of paradise (pg. 14) was how she described her rejection. At her high school graduation, she won several awards including the Congressional Award for Academic Excellence and the Georgia Certificate of Merit.
She was also named Miss Lassiter High, the female student that displays the schools values. In June, 1989 she entered the Air Force Academy. This was to be unlike and experience she had ever encountered. As a freshman cadet, she was treated like dirt. She learned how to stand at attention, how to march, and how to answer upperclassmen. The whole point of basic training was to break you down, rid you of any individual characteristics you might cling to (like independent thought), and build you back up again. (pg. 21) After six weeks of basic training, she graduated and began life as a college student.
She quickly learned that she would get along better at the Academy if she could pass as one of the boys. She cut her hair short, never wore makeup, and didnt date either. During her years at the academy, she learned how to fly the F-16 and the T-41. After graduating college, she went to Undergraduate Pilot School. At the end of school, she was asked to pick which plane she wanted to fly. She choose the B-52 Bomber Plane and became the first female bomber pilot, a title she was not happy with because all she wanted to do was fly.
After she graduated from B-52 Formal Training School, she moved to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. It was not long afterwards that she met Marc Zigo who was married to Airman Basic Gayla Zigo. He told Kelly he was separated and would be divorced in a matter of weeks. She believed him and fell in love with him. She began sending Mark letters and his wife, Gayla found one of them under the seat of their car. She then handed the letters over to her first sergeant. He called Kelly in for a meeting and told her she needed to stop seeing Mark and she was making a big mistake.
She agreed and took two weeks leave and went to visit her family in Atlanta. Soon after she returned from her parents house, Mark called her and told her his divorce would be final on December 20 so she agreed to start seeing him again. After about 1 month into their relationship, Mark became obsessed with the men she worked with. He began calling her a whore, a slut and a sleaze. Then they would reconcile and everything would be o. k. for a while. This pattern repeated itself over and over through the summer and the fall. Then her life began to completely fall apart.
On November 24,1996 the base security police began an inquiry into Flinns alleged affair based on charges of a male junior officer who was under investigation for sexual misconduct. In two sworn statements Flinn denied her relationship with Mark Zigo was sexual. On the other hand, Mark Zigo first told investigators that they had had sex on just two occasions. He later acknowledged they had sex numerous times. In December, Kelly was again ordered to stay away from Zigo, after Gayla Zigo complained again about contact between the two. The office that issued the order did not know that Kelly and Mark were already living together.
Base officials thought the matter was closed until Mrs. Zigo complained that Kelly had taken Mark home to Atlanta for Christmas. It was only after this complaint of apparent insubordination and conduct unbecoming to an officer that Kellys commander, Col. Robert J. Elder, decided to take action. Charges were filed on January 28, 1997. These charges included adultery, lying under oath, fraternization, disobeying a direct order and conduct unbecoming an officer. On February 19, the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB issued a five-line press release that simply noted that court-martial charges were being reviewed against Kelly Flinn.
Three weeks passed between the time that Kelly was notified of the charges and the day the press statement was issued. Flinns attorney and family were outraged that Kelly was not notified of the release beforehand. As her case evolved, much of the reporting was overly sympathetic to Kelly and understated the severity of the charges against her and painted the military justice system in the worst possible way; as an unfair, faceless bureaucracy intent on rooting out illicit sexual behavior. But Kelly did not see things that way.
She felt as if her whole life was falling apart just because she had fallen in love with the wrong man. She found out Mark had lied to her about everything. Her lawyers had gathered evidence that proved Mark was a pathological liar including six letters from other women and different bases that said he had done the same things to them. The evidence was not allowed to be permitted in court. Kelly asked for a reduction in charges and it was denied. She asked for a non-criminal court-martial and it also was denied.
There had been rumor that she would be granted an honorary discharge but when she put in her paperwork she soon realized it was just a rumor it was denied too. Finally, her lawyers and family convinced her the only thing she could do was accept a general discharge from the Air Force to avoid going to prison. She ultimately accepted her fate and signed her resignation papers on May 28, 1997. She considers herself lucky in spite of everything that has happened. The Air Force may have ruined her career but it did not destroy her life and she gained a great education and some insight into love and real life.
She has learned from her mistakes. I loved this book! It was very easy to read and interesting. I always wanted to hear her side of the story and this book gives it to you. She shared her experiences in life and took everything in stride. She did not show the Air Force in a negative light, which I believe they did to her. I think what happened to her was wrong and has made people afraid to talk to anyone who is not the same rank and sex. She is a survivor in a harsh world and hopefully she will be able to regain her life and fly again in the future.