Female WWII Pilot Is Finally Honored at Arlington

'This now is about closure,' says granddaughter
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 7, 2016 12:13 PM CDT
Female WWII Pilot Is Finally Honored at Arlington
Elaine Harmon in the 1940s.   (Family photo via AP)

It took an act of Congress, but World War II pilot Elaine Harmon is finally being laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, reports the AP. Harmon died last year at age 95. She was one of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, a group of women who flew military aircraft on noncombat missions during World War II so that men were freed up for combat. The women received retroactive status as veterans in 1977 and for many years were eligible to have their ashes inurned at Arlington. Last year, though, Army officials concerned about limited space ruled WASPs ineligible for inclusion. Widespread criticism followed as Harmon's family fought the rule, with a Change.org petition receiving more than 175,000 signatures.

In May, President Obama signed legislation—sponsored by the first female fighter pilot in US history to fly in combat, Rep. Martha McSally—allowing WASPs in Arlington. On Wednesday, Harmon's ashes, previously kept in a bedroom closet, will be inurned at a funeral service with military honors. Harmon's granddaughter says dozens of family members are in town for the service. "We're all kind of excited," she says. "In a way, we've already grieved, and this now is about closure." Eligibility for in-ground burial at Arlington, which has severe space limitations, is extremely tight, and not even all World War II veterans are eligible for burial there. But eligibility for placement of ashes, or above-ground inurnment, is not quite as strict. (More Arlington National Cemetery stories.)

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