Ernst legislation to aid WASPs goes to president

Source: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

By Christinia Crippes

WATERLOO — U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Friday she was “thrilled” President Barack Obama will sign legislation she led to ensure World War II women pilots get inurnment rights at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ernst, a retired Iowa National Guard lieutenant colonel, worked on the bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate with Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. It passed the Senate unanimously last Wednesday.

It passed the U.S. House shortly after and was sent to the president’s desk for his signature. Obama has indicated he will sign the bill.

The bill deals specifically with Women Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs, who Ernst describes as having an uphill battle since World War II to get the recognition they deserve for their wartime efforts.

“To say that we’re going to run out of space, some day we will run out of space, but these were pioneers in their area, and we just need to make sure we’re honoring them,” Ernst said Friday.

Ernst said the women — who did not fly combat missions in theater, but did train their male counterparts and ferry planes to various destinations — were initially denied even military benefits.

They were initially deemed civilians, but since the 1970s they have been granted status as veterans. But more recently, a new reading of regulations meant the women were denied having their urns placed in Arlington National Cemetery.

“We tried to get the Army just to correct the issue, because they could have done a waiver. For whatever reason, they chose not to do a waiver for all of those ladies that were involved, and so we said, ‘OK, if you won’t do it, we will,’” Ernst said. “And, so we pushed, (and) we got it through.”