WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today cosponsored S. 2437, the Women Airforce Service Pilot Arlington Inurnment Restoration Act of 2016, bipartisan legislation to authorize inurnment of Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).
Current law prevents WASPs, who flew domestic missions during World War II, from being inurned there. A 2002 Army policy erroneously authorized them this right, only to be revoked when the Army realized the authorization was in violation of law. This occurred after two of the WASPs had been inurned at ANC and others hoped to have the same benefit.
South Dakota is home to one WASP member, Ola Mildred Rexroat, age 98. Ms. Rexroat was the only Native American to serve as a WASP, and she is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Ola is a 2007 inductee into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame.
“It is disappointing that these women who so ably served our nation in wartime are barred from being inurned at Arlington National Cemetery.” said Rounds. “These women bravely served their country throughout World War II, flying planes and putting their lives at risk for the United States. They are deserving of the honor and privilege of being laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery if they so choose.”
Between 1942 and 1944, over 1,000 WASPs flew non-combat domestic military missions to allow more male pilots to be deployed to combat zones. They piloted every kind of military aircraft and logged 60 million miles flying missions across the United States. Yet they were never considered members of the armed forces. In 1977, WASPs were granted veterans’ status.
S. 2437 was introduced by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Susan Davis (D-Calif.).