Congress has officially passed legislation that will once again allow the remains of members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. It's about damn time.
WASPs played a crucial role in domestic military aviation during World War II. When the US entered the war and male pilots began shipping out for combat missions in Europe and the Pacific, Uncle Sam turned to women to fly virtually every aircraft in the arsenal and on nearly every kind of domestic mission. That included flying new planes from factories to airbases or other departure points, testing overhauled aircraft and towing target aircraft in live-fire exercises. According to NPR, of the over 1,100 WASPs that served, 38 were killed.
Despite their admirable service, the Army cancelled the WASP program after just two years, and the women that served weren't recognized as veterans until 1977. That came with the privilege of having ashes inurned at Arlington. That ended last year, after the Army revoked the WASPs' burial privileges, claiming there wasn't enough space in the 624-acre facility. That didn't sit well with Rep. Martha McSally, a republican from Arizona.
McSally put forth the legislation to once again allow the WASPs to rest in Arlington, telling NPR: "These women should have been active duty at the time. The requirements to being in Arlington are very clear: To have your ashes inurned you have to have served on active duty and you have to have been honorably discharged. And they meet that criteria retroactively."
As of today, McSally's legislation has cleared Congress and is headed for President Barack Obama's desk.