Warrior Wednesday: Major Marie Therese Rossi-Cayton #NeverForgotten

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Major Marie Therese Rossi-Cayton

Jan. 3, 1959 to Mar. 1 1991

Photo provided by Find A Grave and Warrick L. Barrett

Photo provided by Find A Grave and Warrick L. Barrett

Marie Therese Rossi-Cayton was the first woman in American military history to serve in combat as an aviation unit commander, during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, and the first woman pilot in United States history to fly combat missions. She was killed when the CH-47 Chinook she was piloting crashed in Saudi Arabia, on March 1, 1991.

Rossi served as a CH-47 Chinook pilot with the 18th Aviation Brigade, commanding B Company, 2d Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia. Her company deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield in 1990. At the time, she was married to CWO John Anderson Cayton, another helicopter pilot. When the Gulf War broke out, both she and her husband deployed to Saudi Arabia, where they served in different units, in accordance with Army policy to separate spouses.

Rossi led a flight of her company’s CH-47 Chinook helicopters 50 miles (80 km) into Iraq on February 24, 1991, ferrying fuel and ammunition during the very first hours of the ground assault by the Coalition Forces. Her company would be involved in supply missions throughout the war. Rossi was killed when her helicopter crashed into an unlit microwave tower in Northern Saudi Arabia on March 1, 1991, the day after the ceasefire agreement. She was buried on March 11, 1991 with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1992, she was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame. Other military awards and decorations:
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Meritorious Service Medal
Air Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal (twice)
National Defense Service Medal
Southwest Asia Service Medal (with two Bronze Stars for two designated campaigns)
Korea Defense Service Medal
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Service Ribbon
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)
Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)

If any of the information I’ve shared is incorrect or you have something to add, please comment or contact me through the link in the top menu or button on the bottom right of your screen. Verification of facts are always welcome.

The protagonist of my WID (Work in Development) is a physical therapist who works with wounded vets. Through my research I’ve discovered patriots that leave me awe-filled, many of whom gave their life for their country. If I’ve learned only one thing, it is that these soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines don’t do what they do for notoriety, they love their job, their country and their brothers (and sisters) in arms. I encourage you to do a bit of research on these warriors, but keep in mind that initial media reports often contain unverified information and for security reasons many details of operations are never revealed.