In a resignation letter to the secretary of the Air Force sent earlier this week, 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn wrote passionately of “mistakes and errors in judgment” she had made, but pleaded for forgiveness and “a second chance.”
She described leaving the Air Force as “the worst punishment” she could imagine, one that would stay with her forever.
Flinn released the letter Friday, one day after she accepted the sanction of a general discharge from the Air Force in place of a court-martial for an adulterous affair and dishonest and disobedient behavior.
The letter had been sent Monday with a request for an honorable discharge, which Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall rejected, prompting Flinn to file another petition Thursday for a less-desirable general discharge.
The 26-year-old officer, who initially gained acclaim as the first female B-52 bomber pilot, remained in seclusion at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
With the case having divided the country between those who saw Flinn as the unfortunate victim of an intrusive, outdated military justice system, and those who saw her as an unpardonable violator of core Air Force values of integrity and obedience, the reaction to the outcome was predictably mixed.
In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 643 people taken after the announcement of the general discharge, 53 percent said they disapproved of the Air Force’s handling of the Flinn case and 33 percent said they approved.
In her letter to Widnall, Flinn spoke of her own devotion to the Air Force.
“This is the hardest decision I have made in my life, and it feels like part of me has died,” she said of her resignation request.
She said she had never meant to discredit the Air Force, but had fallen “deeply in love with a man who led me down this path of self-destruction and career destruction.”
Saying she regretted lying and “should have done many things differently,” Flinn pleaded: “I just want the chance to reconcile this situation and perhaps have the opportunity to redeem myself in the eyes of the Air Force. … More than anything, I wish that you would accept my apology and give me a second chance.”