Time running out for WWII women’s place in Arlington

Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks outside the Capitol Wednesday advocating for the reinstatement of WWII female pilots at Arlington National Cemetery. She was joined by family members of some of the pilots. Molly Riley | AP

According to her family, Betty Strohfus, the former WASP who died last week, wanted to be buried in the family plot in Faribault, Minn. After a full military funeral yesterday, she got her wish.

She spent the last decades of her life, however, fighting for recognition of women just like her, by allowing them to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery as befits any other veteran.

The women won that right in 2002 but last year then-Army Secretary John McHugh overruled the order and denied the women their due, insisting the Army makes the rules and the Army rules don’t allow the burial of WASPs. Time was on his side, or so it appeared. The women were dying off.

Today, however, several female Washington lawmakers served notice that the issue isn’t going away.

“It’s ironic and cruel that at a time when the administration is trying to open up combat positions to women … they are closing the gates to Arlington to these women,” Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., told a news conference. She and the others are demanding the White House step in to order a resting place for the women aviators.

“There is no doubt these women are heroes,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, one of four Iraq war veterans in Congress. “The Pentagon should do the right thing and honor these women.”

This shouldn’t be that hard.

With Strohfus’ voice gone, the family of Elaine Harmon is turning up their volume. She died a year ago at 95.

Her ashes are still waiting to be buried at Arlington, the Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak writes.

There are lots and lots of women buried in Arlington. Wives, most of them.

When you look at all the exception requests, you see wives, ex-wives, first wives. Usually, the military is fine with them. There are also plenty of women buried with their parents on something once called the “spinster policy” — women who were “never married” and “childless”.

Those exceptions, in official military documents, are usually explained as “humanitarian.”

“The ridiculous thing is that if her husband was buried there, then she could be buried there, too,” Miller said. “There are 15 WASPs there buried with their husbands.”

But each of those women deserved to be there on her own merits.

Humanitarian? How about moral. And just. And right.

McSally’s legislation to properly honor the World War II women has 170 co-sponsors. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Her legislation was filed in January.