Female WWII Veterans Denied Eligibility for Arlington Burial
Last year was victorious for women in the military. For the first time, a pair of women completed Army Ranger school and the Pentagon made the announcement that all military combat positions would finally be open to women. However, 2016 is already bringing up memories from the past when women’s service was considered secondary to that of their male counterparts. In April 2015, Elaine Harmon, a veteran who flew as a pilot in the Second World War, passed away. And since then her ashes have been deemed ineligible to be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.Due to increasing concern about lack of space, Arlington National Cemetery is necessarily selective about which servicemen and women may be buried there, but the right to be considered eligible for this honor was something Herman and the other surviving WASPs have been working towards for many years. In addition to their service, these ~1,000 women changed the way female leadership and ability was viewed by the nation as well as by the military.In WWII, women played an integral role in the war effort. In addition to taking up important responsibilities on the home front, approximately 350,000 women served in many military capacities including the Women’s Army Corps, providing switchboard operators, mechanics, and bakers and the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, theorganization with which Harmon flew, carrying out non-combat related missions in order to allow male pilots to focus on combat missions. WASPs were granted veteran status in 2002, but their eligibility for inurnment was revoked by then-Secretary of the Army John McHugh due to the designation of WASPs as “active duty designees” by Army lawyers in 2014. Thirty-eight WASPs lost their lives in the line of duty during the war and were not granted the privileges or ceremony of a military burial.A petition on change.org to grant military burial honors to women WWII pilots has reached almost 10,000 signees.