Iowa Senator Joni Ernst stood up for military women who flew dangerous missions during WWII, saying they should not have had the honor of being qualified for inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery revoked.
Ernst was part of a bipartisan group in Congress, most of whom were veterans like her, who said Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) should have their ashes inurned at Arlington.
The women pilots were granted military veteran status in 1977 and granted burial rights in 2002. However, the burials of more than 1,000 women were blocked last year when the then-Army Secretary decided allowing the remains of these women into Arlington was against Army policy. The new secretary told a committee this month that WASPs should be allowed to be buried at Arlington, in his view, but he is not given the authority to change the decision.
Ernst teamed up with Senator Barbara Mikluski (D-MD) to sponsor a bill that would change the policy. "It's a travesty that these women, who are pioneers in military aviation, had the honor of having their ashes inurned at Arlington National Cemetery revoked last year, during the same year that historically, you opened up positions in combat that had previously been closed to women."
Twenty-five WASPS have lived in Iowa at one time or another, according to Ernst. Her office is trying to reach those women or their relatives. Dangerous and vital duties were assigned to these women: testing new aircraft, ferrying bombers, and towing targets for live anti-aircraft artillery practice.
Thirty-eight of them died during service.
It's an overdue victory, but due to Ernst's and Mikulski's efforts, along with Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), the right has been returned to these heroic women.
"[these women] willingly put their lives on the line in service to our great country, and made tremendous sacrifices to join a ground breaking flight program to free up their male counterparts for combat duty during World War II," Ernst said.
"[it is] the right thing to do in honoring these extraordinary women for their remarkable military service."
They deserve to be honored. We thank Senator Ernst for her work to restore the Women Airforce Service Pilots' inurnment rights.