SAN DIEGO (CBS 8/AP) - Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) was at Palomar Airport Sunday for an event honoring women Air Force service pilots.
Davis spoke about her efforts in Congress to restore military burial honors for female World War II Air Force pilots.
"I loved the job, in fact I asked for it, because it involved so much acrobatics and I could fly at night if I wanted to and Ioved that," said Alyce Rohrer, a former mechanical test pilot. "When we graduated, we would graduate as First Lieutenant, just like the boys did."
The Women Airforce Service Pilots were a special unit that flew noncombat missions to free up male pilots for combat. During the war, the women were considered civilians, but in 1977, federal law granted them status as veterans. Since 2002, they have been eligible to have their ashes placed at Arlington with military honors. But in March 2015, then-Secretary of the Army John McHugh ruled WASPs never should have been allowed in and revoked their eligibility.
Just over 1,000 women were accepted into the WASP program, which ran from 1942 to 1944. There are an estimated 112 WASPs still alive, according to Kate Landdeck, a history professor at Texas Woman's University. Landdeck has researched the WASPs and advocated for their inclusion at Arlington.
Tiffany Miller is the granddaughter of a WASP who organized a Change.org petition to push Congress to pass a bill allowing her grandmother to be inurned at Arlington.
"She considered Arlington National Cemetery to be a museum of sorts, so anybody who goes there would know the WASPs did exist and their contribution to the war was important," said Miller.
Rep. Davis is supporting a bi-partisan bill to restore inurnment rights at Arlington. The bill is currently in the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
"We think they made the wrong decision when it came to taking away the ability of Women Airforce Service Pilots to be buried there," said Davis. "They volunteered for this job and it's important that they be treated with the respect they deserve."
Click here if you would like to sign the petition to push Congress to pass the bill.