The remains of women who flew missions in World War II may now be buried in Arlington Cemetery, often described as the nation’s most hallowed burial location for military veterans. Because the missions the Women Air Force Service pilots, or WASPs, flew were non-combat flights, their status as veterans was a matter of debate for decades. In 2002, the female pilots were given veteran status, but they weren’t allowed to have their remains entombed in Arlington until 2002. Then, last year, those rights were revoked. Then-Army Secretary John McHugh took away that right after a legal decision was reached stipulating that such “active duty designees,” as the women pilots were officially referred to by the military, didn’t meet the Army’s eligibility rules to be buried at Arlington, where grave space is in high demand.
Tiffany Miller, whose grandmother, Danforth Harmon, was a World War II pilot, launched an online petition last year, advocating for the right to bury Harmon’s ashes in the iconic cemetery. The petition picked up more than 178,000 supporters and last week President Obama signed a bill into law clearing the way for the WASPs’ remains to be buried in Arlington along with their fellow heroes from WWII and other wars.
Harmon had become a WASP at the age of 22 in 1944, just after she graduated from college. Harmon’s mother objected to her decision to join, arguing that it was unladylike. No matter, Harmon flew into aviation American history. “It was her last wish to be in Arlington,” Miller told CNN. Harmon died last year at the age of 95, but her ashes have yet to be buried. “We haven’t been able to hold a funeral for her because we wanted to honor that wish,” Miller said, adding that the development has been overwhelming. More than 1,000 women flew as WASP pilots and 38 died in the line of duty.
Read the full story at CNN.