Taking to the Skies: Bedford’s Melony Lynch Gets Her Wings
In 1988, Melony Lynch graduated from Bedford High School. She would later earn a degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with the goal of becoming a pilot for a commercial airline. But she found herself wanting more. “To me, the only other things that would be better was military aviation and to serve my country in that capacity,” she explains. “My decision was based on two things: a drive to do the best I could for myself and for my country.”
After much thought and deliberation, she decided to apply to both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force. With the Navy responding to her first, she knew it was a sign. “It was fantastic because I truly feel that the Navy has the best pilots in the world,” she explains, “because they land on aircraft carriers, and that’s something that others don’t do, and that’s what sets the Navy apart.” With this decision, she went on to become Lieutenant Lynch and would be the only woman on the U.S.S. Enterprise who was a fighter pilot when the terror attack happened on September 11th, 2001. She would also become the first woman fighter pilot to be in combat during Operation Enduring Freedom.
With the path she was taking, the uncommon one considered for women, there was push back. Older generations of servicemen were not so welcoming to women. “There were some who through women could do anything men could do,” Lynch says, “but I also dealt with a lot of negative attitudes - people who didn’t want me there - some were very vocal and some not as obvious. But I got more pushback from the older generation than my own peer group.” Though this was apparent for Lynch, this didn’t keep her from pushing forward and continuing to grow. “I never wanted to show any weaknesses in my knowledge, training, physical, and mental abilities. I never wanted to give anyone a reason to say that I was there because I was a girl or because of quotas - I needed to show that I was deserving to be there.”
Her confidence alone led to her finishing at the top of her class in her primary flight training. Excelling beyond that, she would serve in combat missions, serving in the Navy Reserves and then later retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2018. Returning home to her husband and children, she inspires her family with her career and her children’s career paths, who have ambitions to help people and serve in the military. “I encourage them because I wouldn’t have wanted my parents to discourage me,” Lynch says. “My parents said, ‘You can do whatever you want to be.’ My experience has been so rewarding, and has defined who I am, made me the person I am, and I have great personal rewards from those times. There may be danger, but I know the experiences they have will be rewarding and they’ll never forget it.”
Melony Lynch is among the many women who have defied the odds. Her inspiring career path and her brave service in the military created hope that more women will reach out and pursue a military pathway. She is a woman to watch and a woman that is changing the timeline for all women everywhere, no matter what field of work they choose. To read her full article, you can find it in the Spring/Summer 2020 edition of Generations Magazine.
Original Article by Kellie Goodman Shaffer