The day has finally come for a World War II veteran to receive the honor she and her fellow Women Airforce Service Pilots so well deserve.
The ashes of pilot Elaine Harmon, who died in April 2015 at the age of 95, were laid to rest Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
It was a long time coming. Harmon’s family, along with retired Air Force pilot and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, fought a ruling barring WASPs from the cemetery because of limited space. In May, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation sponsored by McSally, the first female U.S. fighter pilot to serve in combat, that allowed WASPs to be buried at Arlington. It had long been Harmon’s wish to be laid to rest at the veterans cemetery.
WASPs never saw combat during WWII, but that didn’t keep them out of harm’s way. The female pilots flew transport, flight test and target towing missions using live ammunition, and 38 died in service. The group didn’t receive military status or benefits during the war, and it wasn’t until 1977 that WASPs were officially recognized as veterans.
This week marks another milestone for the legendary pilots and vindication for those who have lobbied on their behalf.
“It sounds funny, but we’re all kind of excited,” Harmon’s granddaughter told the Associated Press before the ceremony. “In a way, we’ve already grieved, and this now is about closure.”
Watch below for footage of Wednesday’s ceremony at Arlington.