Ernst WASP Measure Signed into Law

Women Airforce Service Pilots' Inurnment Rights at Arlington National Cemetery Restored

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an overdue victory for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), President Obama today signed bipartisan, bicameral legislation into law to restore the inurnment rights of the WASP at Arlington National Cemetery. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) along with Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Congresswomen Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Susan Davis (D-CA) offered this legislation to return the right to these heroic women.

“Today is a victorious occasion for a revolutionary group of women who deserve to be celebrated and remembered by all. The Woman Airforce Service Pilots were early pioneers in military aviation. They willingly put their lives on the line in service to our great country, and made tremendous sacrifices to join a ground-breaking flight program to free up their male counterparts for combat duty, during World War II.

“Restoring what was once the right of the WASP to have their ashes placed at Arlington National Cemetery is undoubtedly the right thing to do in honoring these extraordinary women for their remarkable military service.

“The WASP stand in history as role models for women in the military, proving their strength and fortitude in the missions they carried out. I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with Senator Mikulski and Congresswomen McSally and Davis to honor the legacy of these truly remarkable female trailblazers within our military.”

Iowa was at one time or another, home to at least 25 courageous WASPs.‎ While the WASP were eventually granted veteran status in 1977for the purposes of all laws administered by the Veterans’ Administration,” it was not until 2002 that the Army allowed these women to have their ashes placed in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. In 2015, that honor was revoked by the Army. The family of Elaine Harmon, a WASP who passed away one year ago, has been working tirelessly to reverse the Army’s decision.

Ernst Efforts to Restore WASP Inurnment Rights:

  • In January, Senator Ernst helped introduce bipartisan legislation with Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to restore the inurnment rights. A recent policy change made by the Army now prevents WASP, who flew domestic military missions during World War II, from being inurned at Arlington.
  • In March, Senator Ernst led a bipartisan, bicameral press conference with Representative McSally (R-AZ) to call on the Army to reinstate the WASP at Arlington. As the Iowa Senator noted, “Iowa was at one time or another, home to at least 25 courageous WASPs.”
  • Following the press conference, Senator Ernst pressed Defense Secretary Ash Carter on this issue, noting “…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.”
  • In late March, Senator Ernst applauded passage of U.S. Representative Martha McSally’s (R-AZ) legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to reinstate the Women Airforce Service Pilots’ (WASP) right to have their ashes placed at Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.
  • In May, the legislation championed by Senators Joni Ernst and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to reinstate inurnment rights for Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) at Arlington National Cemetery, passed the Senate unanimously.

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