SEN. ERNST: Thank you so much and thanks to all of you for joining us today. This is an important issue and I’d like to start by thanking Congresswoman Martha McSally. Thank you so much for leading this effort. She is a combat pilot so this has a very significant meaning for her, but also to the rest of us that are veterans.
I’d also like to thank the members from Elaine Harmon’s family. Thank you for being here today and thanks for being such great advocates. And from Change.org as well because they’ve really led the charge and allowed our voices to be heard on this issue.
You know, more than two decades have gone by since I was able to join the military, and I was fortunate to have some extraordinary trailblazers from these women that allowed me to forge ahead as a woman serving in today’s military forces.
But we’re here to advocate for some of these incredible women, who deserve to be honored. There is no doubt in my mind that they are heroes: the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or those that we know as WASPs.
These women flew military aircrafts under the orders of the United States Army Air Forces. They served in non-combat capacities and this allowed their male pilots to go to combat during WWII.
Now, these courageous WASPs are being denied what was once their right to have their ashes inurned at Arlington National Cemetery, with full military honors.
Iowa was at one time or another, home to at least 25 WASPs, including one special lady, Madelyn Taylor Eggleston, who is from my hometown of Red Oak, Iowa.
And some women died while they were in training and in service to our nation. Beverly Jean Moses was born in Des Moines, Iowa and died during a training mission. Gleanna Roberts grew up near Iowa City and she also died in a training crash.
These women served our nation with great honor – and put their lives on the line.
We must move forward, not backwards. The Pentagon should do the right thing and join us in honoring these women, and restore their right to have their ashes placed at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.
If they won’t do the right thing, then those of us here today will ensure that we do the right thing.