In resignation letter, Flinn begs for a second chance
May 23, 1997
(CNN) -- The nation's first female bomber pilot pleaded for "a second chance" to serve her country and said she felt "like a part of me has died" as she asked to resign from the Air Force rather than face court-martial for adultery and other transgressions.
In her resignation letter made public Friday, 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn apologized for her "mistakes and errors in judgment" but begged not to forfeit her entire career over her affair with a married civilian.
Flinn, 26 and single, had sought an honorable discharge rather than face a military trial on charges of adultery, disobedience, fraternization and lying to investigators. Instead, Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall decided Wednesday to give her a general discharge.
In her May letter, written before the secretary's decision, Flinn said she had learned from her mistakes, and hoped that some sort of compromise could be worked out.
"This is the hardest decision I have made in my life and it feels like a part of me has died," Flinn wrote. "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 in my country."
Flinn said she had not meant to harm the Air Force by her relationship with Marc Zigo, the civilian with whom she had an affair. "I truly fell in love with a man who led me down the path of self-destruction and career destruction.
"Deep in my heart, I believe that no punishment the Air Force renders will ever compare to the public humiliation I have suffered, the loss of my trust, and the loss of my innocence," she added. "Before this happened, I never dreamed that people like Marc Zigo existed."
The affair was brought to the Air Force's attention by Zigo's wife, 22-year-old Airman Gayla Zigo, who asked for help after she found Flinn's love letters to her husband.
Flinn has said Marc Zigo told her he was legally separated and talked of marrying her. Zigo has admitted lying to both women, but said Flinn had entered the relationship of her own will.
"At no time was a gun to Lt. Flinn's head," he said.
The Air Force was criticized by many who felt Flinn was being singled out because of her gender. A male pilot would not have been held to the same standard, the critics said. The Air Force, however, maintained the case was about Flinn's disobedience when ordered to stop seeing Zigo and her lies about her involvement with him.
In her letter, Flinn stressed her devotion to the service and the many obstacles she had overcome -- including "sexual molestation and harassing comments" -- to become an Air Force pilot.
"The thought of leaving the Air Force ... 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," she wrote.
"More than anything, I wish that you would accept my apology and give me a second chance."
Widnall has said Flinn will not be allowed to fly in the Air Force Reserves and will be required to pay back part of the cost of her Air Force Academy education.
The general discharge, as opposed to an honorable discharge, may mean that Flinn cannot fly in the Air National Guard, which she had wanted to do to build flying time toward a career as a commercial pilot.
In a statement released Friday along with her resignation letter, Flinn thanked those who had written to offer her support and said that after her discharge becomes effective, she will begin considering her future options, "including the possibility of returning to flight status within the Air Force Reserve."
She is entitled to apply for a waiver that could allow her to fly in the Air National Guard or the Air Force Reserve. However, a source told CNN her chances of success in such an effort are "slim to none."
"First of all, she left the Air Force with a general discharge, and that alone would probably keep her from" being allowed to fly any Air Force, Air Guard or Reserve planes, one officer said.
"But more than that," the officer said, "the resignation in lieu of court martial is even worse" in terms of applying to upgrade her general discharge to an honorable one or being granted a waiver.
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