The Women’s Air Force Service Pilots were a special program in World War II, which involved women flying non-combat missions so that their male counterparts would have more availability for combat operations. Many years later, they were granted veteran status, and could be buried at Arlington Cemetery. However, the Secretary of the Army has reversed this ruling, making this section of the military ineligible for burial at Arlington.

It’s a more relevant issue than it would seem at first glance. Remarkably, over 100 women from this division are still alive, and are generally 90+ years old. Many want to be buried at Arlington when they pass, as they consider it to be an important honor. On the other side of things, it seems that Arlington Cemetery is running out of space, so these types of restrictions would apparently slow down the rate of burials there. In particular, the Merchant Marines are now barred from burial at Arlington as well. Some of the issue stems from different reaches of authority from these organizations: Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Army, not the Department of Veterans Affairs.

It has been a long fight for the WASPs to receive their proper recognition, and this is just one more example. With so many living members, it would be a great show of respect for these burial rights to become opened again. The issue has received public support, with a change.org petition counting over 4,000 signatures supporting the WASPs in their effort to gain access to the cemetery.