A graduate of River Dell Regional High School near her home in Oradell, New Jersey, Marie Rossi entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in the autumn of 1976 and graduated with her class of 1980 as a psychology major. While at the College she was an outstanding R.O.T.C. cadet.
Major Marie Rossi died at age thirty-two on March 1, 1991, when the Chinook helicopter she was piloting flew into an unlighted microwave tower in bad weather at night. The crash, which also claimed the lives of three others in her crew, took place near her base in northern Saudia Arabia the day after the Operation Desert Storm ceasefire had come into effect.
The unit Rossi commanded, Company B of the 159th Aviation Battalion, 24th Infantry Division, had been among the very first American units to cross into enemy-held territory and spent the pivotal days of the operation flying fuel and ammunition to the rapidly advancing 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. The United States Army remembered her sacrifice when it named in 1992 the new small-arms development and testing facility at the Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey the "Major Marie T. Rossi-Cayton Building Armament Technology Facility."
Major Rossi, the only Dickinsonian to perish in the first Gulf War, is buried in Arlington Cemetery, the only female casualty of the war so honored. Her simple epitaph there commemorates her pioneering sacrifice and reads "First Female Combat Commander To Fly into Battle."
For more information on Dickinson casualties in the wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, please follow the link below: