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Arizona congresswoman’s bill for female WWII pilots becomes law

WASP (from left) Frances Green, Margaret Kirchner, Ann Waldner and Blanche Osborn leave their B-17, called Pistol Packin' Mama, during ferry training at Lockbourne Army Air Force base in Ohio. They're carrying their parachutes. (National Archives Photo)

PHOENIX — President Barack Obama on Monday signed a bill sponsored by an Arizona congresswoman that will allow female World War II pilots to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) sponsored the Women Airforce Service Pilots Arlington Inurnment Restoration bill, also known as WASP AIR. It makes the cremated remains of female WWII pilots eligible for retroactive inurnment in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

“With this signing, generations of Americans will be able to come to Arlington and see how the WASPs served during a time of great need and, in doing so, paved the way for all women to serve in the military,” McSally said in a release.

McSally was inspired to sponsor the bill by Erin Miller, a granddaughter of late WASP Elain Harmon.

“Overturning the decision of the Army seemed like an insurmountable obstacle just six months ago but now my grandmother will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery,” Miller said in the same release.

The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

“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,” Ernst said.

There were approximately 1,100 women who served as Women Airforce Service Pilots in WWII.