House passes bill allowing burial of female pilots at Arlington National

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure to allow the burial of members from an all-female contingent of pilots at Arlington National Cemetery.

The bill passed 385-0.

Classified as “active-duty designees” during World War II, the women were denied burial at Arlington due to a policy reversal enacted in 2015 by former Secretary of the Army, John McHugh.

Known as WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), approximately 1,000 women attached to this unit, which served domestically during the Second World War, had been denied access for burial due to the policy change under the Obama Administration.

The movement in the U.S. House was inspired by the 2015 death of Elaine Harmon, herself a WASP veteran, who had left instructions to be buried at Arlington.

Harmon trained male pilots during the war.

When denied the right to be buried among fellow servicemen, Harmon’s daughter, Terry Harmon, and granddaughter, Erin Miller, appealed to Congress for assistance.

Their effort caught the attention of members of both chambers, notably Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), both of whom sponsored measures in each house to change Army policy.

Harmon’s daughter’s and granddaughter’s labor inspired a online petition which has obtained over 171,000 signatures.

Through McSally’s effort, herself a former Air Force pilot and combat veteran, the measure passed easily on Tuesday.

Ernst’s bill in the Senate has strong support, but a vote has yet to be scheduled.


[Reuters] [] [] [Photo courtesy CNN]