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Jessica May (Cruz) McCarthy

Jessica May (Cruz) McCarthy, 43, of Navarre, Florida passed away peacefully on March 30, 2022, after a 5-year, hard fought battle with cancer.

On September 8, 1978, Jessica was born in Key West, FL the daughter of Nick and Debbie Cruz.  She married Paul McCarthy on Navarre Beach, FL November 10, 2012.

She is survived by her husband Paul and stepdaughter Kayla McCarthy of Navarre, FL, stepson Aaron McCarthy of Lincoln Park, MI, parents Nick and Debbie Cruz of Lakeland, FL, brother Jarrod Cruz-Stipsits, his husband Brian and their son Logan of Hernando Beach, FL, numerous cousins, aunts and uncles, her grandmother and hundreds of friends around the world.

Growing up, Jess learned woodworking in her parents’ small business and to the chagrin of much older men, she was in charge.  She has been a leader and mentor her entire life.

Jess followed her father’s footsteps and entered the United States Air Force just prior to 9/11 and spent 13 years serving our country.  She began her career as an Air Traffic Control apprentice at Keesler AFB, MS and was then stationed at Cannon AFB, NM.  She switched career fields to Aviation Resource Management and was stationed at Hurlburt Field, FL and Mountain Home, ID.  She deployed to northern Japan (deterrent mission to North Korea) with an F-16 squadron, Iraq twice in support of Air Force Special Operations missions, Afghanistan once in support of Special Operations and once with an Aeromedical Evacuation unit, and her final deployment was to the United Arab Emirates with her F-15E squadron.  Her awards include the Air Force Commendation Medal with one Silver Oak Leaf cluster (6 total medals), Air Force Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor Device with 3 Oak Leaf clusters and numerous campaign medals.  She had earned a promotion to Master Sergeant while stationed at Mountain Home AFB, ID but instead chose to separate from the Air Force to be with her husband and stepdaughter in Florida.

Upon returning to Florida, Jess entered an accelerated nursing school at Fortis Institute where she excelled and earned her Associates of Science degree in Nursing (ASN) graduating second in her class in 2016. She then began work at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola on a renal (kidney) and respiratory ward.  She worked there until her cancer diagnosis.  She returned to Fortis several times to speak to nursing students about being a patient and was a guest speaker for a graduation class in 2018.

Cancer didn’t stop her from learning or pursuing her goals.  In 2018 she began working on her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree with Chamberlain University, graduating in Dec 2019.  She took classes and scheduled tests around her every other week chemotherapy sessions.

Jess loved animals, especially her chihuahua Tia who passed away one day after her.  She didn’t meet a dog that she didn’t stop to pet and love.

Travel was also something Jess loved to do and made friends everywhere she went.  She wasn’t afraid to try new things from snowboarding in Japan without lessons (instructors didn’t speak English) to scuba diving with sharks in the Bahamas and ziplining and white water rafting in Montana and Tennessee.  Cancer slowed her down but didn’t keep her from seeing the world and all the wonderful people in it.

Service will be held at Barrancas National Cemetery at Naval Air Station Pensacola on April 12, 2022 at 1130.  A Flamingo Fabulous celebration of life party will be held at Johnny Huston’s Grill and Bar in Navarre starting at 6 pm.  Dress code for both events is flamingos, purple, or something joyous.

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