Roses: Ernst leads effort to honor female pilots

Source: Des Moines Register

By the Editorial Board

rose to Sen. Joni Ernst for pushing to restore burial rights for female World War II pilots at Arlington National Cemetery. Ernst is part of a bipartisan group in Congress — some of whom are veterans like her — who want the ashes of Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs, to be inurned at Arlington. More than 1,000 women served in non-combat roles in WWII and were granted military veteran status in 1977, and Arlington officials granted them burial rights in 2002. Last year, however, the burials were blocked after then-Army Secretary John McHugh decided that cemetery officials weren't following Army policy, according to a story in the Army Times. Acting Army Secretary Patrick Murphy told a House committee this month that he believes WASPs should  be allowed to be buried at Arlington, but he doesn't have the authority to change the decision.

Ernst and Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., sponsored a Senate bill to change the policy. A similar bill passed the House of Representatives last week. Ernst told Defense Secretary Ash Carter: "It is 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 that had been previously closed in combat to women.”

Ernst says 25 WASPs have lived in Iowa at one point or another, and her office is trying to reach those women and their relatives. These women performed dangerous duty  —  ferrying bombers, testing new aircraft and towing targets for live anti-aircraft artillery practice — and 38 died during service. They deserve to be honored.