At age 17, Linda Maloney knew that she wanted more. Her parents were divorced and couldn’t afford to send her to college. Looking to take control of her life, she joined the Navy.

“I think when you grow up in a difficult situation, obviously you want better for yourself, you know?” Maloney asked. “And I just wanted to impact my own life.”

In the Navy, Maloney served as both an air traffic controller and a public affairs officer. She wanted to be a pilot – and had been fascinated by flight since her childhood – but postings for naval aviators were rare, with only a handful available each year. Her fortune changed in 1987, when one of that year’s flight school candidates dropped out, allowing Maloney to take that person’s place. She graduated as a Naval flight officer in 1988 and spent the next 16 years as a U.S. Navy pilot. After the military’s Combat Exclusion Policy was lifted in 1993, Maloney became one of the first women pilots in the armed forces to serve in a combat role.

On this week’s episode of Borne the Battle, Maloney discusses her two decades of military service, including the combat exclusion laws she faced in the Navy, the value of maintaining personal relationships and the experience of ejecting over the Atlantic Ocean following an aircraft malfunction.

After retiring from the Navy in 2004, Maloney became an author, public speaker and entrepreneur, and now serves as the project director of “Proudly She Served.” This project highlights and honors the service of women Veterans by depicting them in a collection of 12 hand-painted portraits that are both published in a printed book as well as exhibited to the public.

“It was an amazing opportunity, I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Maloney said of her Navy career. “I could never repay the military for the opportunities that it gave to me.”

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By Stephen Hill is a writing intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He is a graduate student at West Virginia University studying Professional Writing and Editing.

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Published on Mar. 21, 2022

Estimated reading time is 2 min.

Views to date: 658

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