Female military pilots who served in WWII can officially have their ashes placed at Arlington National Cemetery after a decades-long fight with full military honors.
The Women Airforce Service Pilots have long fought for full burial rights, and can now be inburned in the nation’s most famous military cemetery following a bill signed by President Barack Obama Friday.
More than 25,000 women originally applied for the job, and fewer than 2,000 were accepted. Of those, 1,074 graduated from training, according to the Department of Defense. The women had to pay their own way through basic training and buy their own dress uniforms, though they were paid as civil servants. During their service, 38 women died.
In 2002, the cemetery authorized the women to have their ashes placed in its columbarium, but the policy was reversed in 2015. Then-Secretary of the Army John McHugh said the cemetery’s superintendent had overreached and federal law didn’t support the decision.
The law signed Friday gives the women full access for their ashes to be placed at the cemetery along with full military honors. Burial at Arlington remains a right to only a subset of all veterans.
“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,” said Sen.