Today in the Arizona Daily Star there was an article about how the WASPs have been barred from burial in the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Active duty status for military service was granted to these women retroactively in 1977. Yet in 2014/15 the Secretary of the Army barred these women’s burial in the National Cemetery supposedly because there isn’t enough space.
Southern Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel who was the first American woman to fly in combat, has introduced legislation to Congress to reverse the Secretary’s decision, and grant interment rights in Arlington National Cemetery to these women.
Co-sponsor of the bill is U. S. Rep. Susan Davis of California, who is a ranking member of the the Military Personnel subcommittee. She is quoted as saying, “They have interment rights in other national cemeteries throughout the country. That right should include Arlington National Cemetery, which has always been considered a special place of honor…These women fought, and died, in service to their country. They trained in the military style; sleeping on metal cots, marching and living under military discipline. They deserve the full honors we give our war heroes…”
According to the Arizona Daily Star article a blog post by Arlington National Cemetery officials offered, “The service of Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War II is highly commendable and, while certainly worth of recognition, it does not, in itself, reach the level of Active Duty service required for interment at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Apparently the cemetery is concerned that there will not be enough space for the currently serving active duty service members and veterans. The National Cemetery has guidelines of who can be buried there, including spouses and children of service members. There are eligibility requirements. You can read these here. Being a member of an older generation, a female child of the World War II era, I find the cemetery’s motives suspicious.
There are about 100 women still living who served as WASPs. It seems they should be allowed the same honors as “veterans” who’ve served active duty, especially during a war. Those members of the military who are currently serving will have their turn at being national heroes.
I applaud Rep. McSally for her endeavor to honor these women heroes.