March 2, 2010
By Alton K. Marsh
Members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II will be honored March 10 for their service with a Congressional Gold Medal. The presentation will take place in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
AirTran Airways and American Airlines are offering special flights to members of the WASP. AirTran announced at Women in Aviation International February 27 that it will fly a WASP and companion for free to the event; American is offering discounts.
More than 1,100 former members will receive bronze replicas of the Gold Medal, which will be placed on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution. Also receiving bronze medals are the families of 11 pilots killed during training.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Republican Leader John Boehner, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and members of Congress will hold attend the ceremony.
The WASP was a pioneering organization of civilian female pilots employed to fly military aircraft. Through their actions, the WASP eventually were the catalyst for the integration of women pilots into the armed services. The founder was the late Jacqueline Cochran, who will also be honored during the ceremony.
Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), along with Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Susan Davis (D-Calif), were original cosponsors of legislation to support the WASP Congressional Gold Medal. The bill was signed by President Barack Obama on July 1, 2009.
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