by Billie Orr, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Prescott
When Sen. Martha McSally was just 12 years old, her dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 49. His early death had a profound impact on her — she frequently says how much she looked up to him as her hero.
Bernard McSally came from humble circumstances: both of his parents passed away at a young age so he began working at age 8, went on to serve in the Navy, and used the GI Bill to make a better life for his family. He graduated from Notre Dame, became a commissioned officer in the Navy and eventually practiced law. Martha decided to press forward and carry on his legacy. His parting words were “Make me proud,” propelling Martha to do something truly meaningful with her life. The rest is history.
When Martha entered the United States Air Force Academy in 1984, her original goal was to become a doctor. However she was motivated by the fact that females were denied the opportunity to become fighter pilots, and she became determined to prove “them” wrong, becoming America’s first woman to fly a fighter jet in combat and the first woman to command a fighter squadron.
Over the course of her 26 years in the USAF, Martha was deployed to the Middle East six times and flew 325 combat hours in the A-10 Warthog, earning the Bronze Star and six Air Medals.
While stationed in the Middle East, Martha stood up against policies that denigrated women such as the requirement that forced U.S. servicewomen to wear the full Muslim garb in Saudi Arabia, known as the abaya policy. After almost a decade of standing for the rights of servicewomen, Martha was successful in December 2002 by the passing of legislation prohibiting the abaya provision: a victory for all women!
Martha endured and survived rape and sexual assault/abuse while in high school, the Air Force Academy and while serving on active duty. In her excellent autobiography, Dare to Fly: Simple Lessons in Never Giving Up, she discusses the darkness of her situation that led to exposing a pattern that finally began to be addressed because of her courage to stand up to senior officers and the truth; another victory for women. Martha wrote, “Real courage is shown when a bystander decides to step up and refuses to tolerate behavior that he or she knows is wrong.”
A woman of strong faith, Martha trusts God’s direction for her life and cherishes the words in Jeremiah 29:11: “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” God definitely has plans for Martha.
She served for four years in the United States House of Representatives after she retired from the USAF in 2010. Today, Martha McSally proudly represents the people of Arizona in the United States Senate. Among her greatest accomplishments are the passing of her Veterans Treatment Court Bill and being recognized as the sixth most bipartisan senator in the Senate. As a freshman senator, Martha had the most bills passed into law in 2019. She is a pragmatic, determined problem solver continuing to stand for the truth, always fighting for America and Arizona.