WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOT ARLINGTON INURNMENT RESTORATION ACT
(House of Representatives - March 22, 2016)

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[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 45 (Tuesday, March 22, 2016)]
[Pages H1528-H1531]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




    WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOT ARLINGTON INURNMENT RESTORATION ACT

  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and 
pass the bill (H.R. 4336) to amend title 38, United States Code, to 
provide for the burial of the cremated remains of persons who served as 
Women's Air Forces Service Pilots in Arlington National Cemetery, as 
amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 4336

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. BURIAL OF CREMATED REMAINS IN ARLINGTON NATIONAL 
                   CEMETERY OF CERTAIN PERSONS WHOSE SERVICE IS 
                   DEEMED TO BE ACTIVE SERVICE.

       (a) In General.--Section 2410 of title 38, United States 
     Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new 
     subsection:
       ``(c)(1) The Secretary of the Army shall ensure that under 
     such regulations as the Secretary may prescribe, the cremated 
     remains of any person described in paragraph (2) are eligible 
     for inurnment in Arlington National Cemetery with military 
     honors in accordance with section 1491 of title 10.
       ``(2) A person described in this paragraph is a person 
     whose service has been determined to be active duty service 
     pursuant to section 401 of the GI Bill Improvement Act of 
     1977 (Public Law 95-202; 38 U.S.C. 106 note) as of the date 
     of the enactment of this paragraph.''.
       (b) Applicability.--
       (1) In general.--The amendment made by subsection (a) shall 
     apply with respect to--
       (A) the remains of a person that are not formally interred 
     or inurned as of the date of the enactment of this Act; and
       (B) a person who dies on or after the date of the enactment 
     of this Act.
       (2) Formally interred or inurned defined.--In this 
     subsection, the term ``formally interred or inurned'' means 
     interred or inurned in a cemetery, crypt, mausoleum, 
     columbarium, niche, or other similar formal location.

     SEC. 2. REPORT ON CAPACITY OF ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY.

       Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of 
     this Act, the Secretary of the Army shall submit to the 
     Committees on Veterans' Affairs and the Committees on Armed 
     Services of the House of Representatives and the Senate a 
     report on the interment and inurnment capacity of Arlington 
     National Cemetery, including--
       (1) the estimated date that the Secretary determines the 
     cemetery will reach maximum interment and inurnment capacity; 
     and
       (2) in light of the unique and iconic meaning of the 
     cemetery to the United States, recommendations for 
     legislative actions and nonlegislative options that the 
     Secretary determines necessary to ensure that the maximum 
     interment and inurnment capacity of the cemetery is not 
     reached until well into the future, including such actions 
     and options with respect to--
       (A) redefining eligibility criteria for interment and 
     inurnment in the cemetery; and
       (B) considerations for additional expansion opportunities 
     beyond the current boundaries of the cemetery.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Florida (Mr. Miller) and the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Brown) each 
will control 20 minutes.

[[Page H1529]]

  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Florida.


                             General Leave

  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their 
remarks and add extraneous material on H.R. 4336, as amended.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Florida?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge all Members to support H.R. 4336, 
as amended.
  This bill, which was introduced by our colleague, the gentlewoman 
from Arizona (Ms. McSally), would ensure that Active Duty designees, 
including women Air Force pilots, are eligible for inurnment with full 
military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
  Active Duty designees are members of civilian groups who served 
alongside the regular Armed Forces during World Wars I and II. These 
brave men and women were often located in combat zones, where they 
risked their lives to protect the freedom that we should never take for 
granted.
  Their contributions to the war effort was so vital that they have 
been granted the most prestigious title our Nation can bestow--that of 
veteran. As such, they are eligible to be laid to rest in any cemetery 
administered by the National Cemetery Administration of the Department 
of Veterans Affairs.
  However, Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Department of the 
Army. Between 2002 and last year, the Army inurned Active Duty 
designees with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. 
Unfortunately, last March, then-Secretary McHugh, reversed this policy, 
which means that many of those courageous individuals can no longer 
choose to be laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
  H.R. 4336, as amended, would reverse this decision and require the 
Army to provide Active Duty designees inurnments with military honors 
in Arlington National Cemetery.
  Mr. Speaker, it is our duty as a Nation to ensure that those who have 
served our Nation are treated with the utmost respect and dignity, 
especially after they pass on.
  I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4336, as amended.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  I rise in support of H.R. 4336, as amended.
  Arlington National Cemetery has been called our Nation's most 
hallowed ground. Since the first military burial took place on May 13, 
1864, Arlington is the final resting place for over 400,000 Active Duty 
servicemembers, veterans, and their families.
  H.R. 4336, as amended, would overturn a recent change in Army policy 
and restore the right of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War 
II, or WASP, to be buried in Arlington. These brave women volunteered 
for duty, and their service made a major contribution to our victory in 
World War II.
  In addition, H.R. 4336 would restore the right of others who assisted 
in the war and whose service and sacrifice was recognized with the 
enacting of the GI Bill Improvement Act of 1977.
  I applaud my colleagues, Representatives Martha McSally and Susan 
Davis, for introducing this important bill and leading the fight, a 
fight that has widespread support and bipartisan support, to recognize 
the service of these brave women and others who helped us defeat the 
Axis Powers in World War II.
  That we are bringing this to the floor during Women's History Month 
is a fitting tribute to women who served our Nation in the past and the 
women who today serve in our Active Duty forces. This is a matter of 
justice and a matter of fairness.
  In 2009, we recognized the service and sacrifice of these brave men 
and women when we awarded a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women 
Airforce Service Pilots. Today, we have the opportunity to do it again.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the 
gentlewoman from Arizona (Ms. McSally), the sponsor of this 
legislation, a combat veteran herself, a pilot of the A-10 Warthog from 
the Second District of Arizona.
  Ms. McSALLY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in wholehearted support of 
H.R. 4336, the Women Airforce Service Pilot Arlington Inurnment 
Restoration Act. This is the right thing to do.
  I want to thank the chairman for quickly moving this through the 
committee and to the floor, and Chairman Thornberry for signing off on 
it, so that we could do the right thing to allow these amazing women 
and these pioneers who went before us and who opened the door for so 
many of us women in the military to serve, that they could be laid to 
rest in a place of honor and a place of rest for the most hallowed, the 
most amazing men and women who have served and gone before us. The fact 
that these women were denied this right is unconscionable and, quite 
frankly, infuriating when we heard about it.
  Let me tell you a little bit about the WASPs. The WASPs during World 
War II raised their right hand and said: I will support.
  We needed pilots, we needed men and women to do whatever it took for 
the war effort. So these women went through training--1,074 of them 
went through training. An additional 28 actually already had flying 
experience and were directly brought in. So it was actually 1,102 that 
said: I am going to be a pilot. I am going to support the effort.
  General Hap Arnold, at the time the head of the Army Air Corps, had 
intended that they be militarized. They went through military training, 
they marched, and they slept in barracks. They went through everything 
that the men alongside them did. The intent was to be militarized. The 
only reason they weren't militarized was because of hang-ups and sexism 
about the role of women in the military back then. Heaven forbid we 
have women military pilots. We couldn't handle it back then.
  These women served anyway. They flew 60 million miles ferrying 
airplanes all over the theater. They towed targets for the ground 
gunners to practice shooting at targets. They trained male pilots to 
then head off to the war effort. Thirty-eight of them perished in 
training in the line of duty. Yet they still were in this quasi-
civilian military status. They had no veterans benefits. They were 
passing the hat around to support getting their bodies back to their 
families. There was no recognition at the time, but they still served.
  At the end of the war, they were discharged and told to go home--the 
men needed the cockpits. It wasn't until 1977 that this Congress passed 
a law finally giving them veterans' rights so that they would be 
treated as veterans. After the fact, they were given honorable 
discharges and they were given the medals that they deserved at the 
time.
  We thought that this was finally over, the fight was over, that they 
would be recognized for all that they deserved, and they would be able 
to be laid to rest with full military honors. But a bureaucratic, 
technocratic glitch created another door that shut to them.

  This is an extraordinary example, by the way, of somebody taking 
action to bring a wrong to our attention and for us to be able to make 
it right.
  I want to highlight Elaine Harmon, who passed away, as one of the 
WASPs. She passed away last year. I met with her family and I read her 
hand-written will. She wanted to have her ashes in Arlington. She 
requested it. We thought that they were allowed, so the family put in a 
request. It wasn't until they got a letter back saying, ``Denied, WASPs 
are not allowed in Arlington,'' that they didn't just accept that no.
  In the legacy of Elaine Harmon--and, by the way, these women were 
feisty; they were strong; they were not going to take no for an answer. 
In that spirit, her children and her granddaughter--and Erin Miller is 
with us in the gallery today--said, ``We are not going to take no for 
an answer. We are going to get awareness on this, and we are going to 
get my grandmother and the WASPs the right that they deserve.''
  I first heard about this through the media in early January. We 
sprung into action working with our colleague, Susan Davis, getting 
sponsors.

[[Page H1530]]

We are over 190 right now. This has been fast-tracked through the 
committee in order to allow them to be laid to rest there. Elaine 
Harmon's ashes are sitting on a shelf in her granddaughter's closet. We 
need to make this right as quickly as possible.
  Let me just say, Mr. Chairman, this isn't just about the pioneers 
that we read about in history books. These WASPs were personal mentors 
to me. When I first went through combat training, we didn't really have 
any women we could look up to, and these amazing women came alongside 
me as wing-women to encourage me and to mentor me. I had three of them 
sitting in my front row at my chain of command ceremony when I took 
over command of an A-10 squadron. Dawn Seymour, Ruth Helm, and Eleanor 
Gunderson, they personally supported and encouraged me along the way. 
It is because of their service that the doors were opened for those of 
us in the military to serve. It is ridiculous that Arlington would 
close the gates to them at the very time they were opening up all 
positions to women in the military.

                              {time}  1430

  This is the right thing to do. I urge all of my colleagues to support 
this legislation, especially during Women's History Month. The least we 
can do is allow the WASPs, including Elaine Harmon, to be laid to rest 
in Arlington as quickly as possible. Let's get this passed today. Let's 
get it through the Senate and onto the President's desk so that she can 
be laid to rest.
  As for the rest who remain who choose to have their ashes laid to 
rest in Arlington, this is their right. The only reason they were not 
Active Duty at the time was due to sexism. It is time for us to shut 
this remaining door and give them this final resting place.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Members are reminded to not make references 
to occupants of the gallery.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the 
gentlewoman from New Hampshire (Ms. Kuster), who is on the Veterans' 
Affairs Committee.
  Ms. KUSTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues on both sides of the 
aisle for acknowledging the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
  My father was a P-47 fighter pilot in World War II, and he was able 
to access the benefits that were due him in terms of his military 
career. It is only fitting now, during Women's History Month, that we 
begin to finally get the opportunity for the WASPs to be interred at 
Arlington National Cemetery.
  I acknowledge my colleague Representative McSally, in her great 
service to this country, and my colleague Tammy Duckworth, a combat 
helicopter pilot. I also acknowledge the veterans who serve on our 
Veterans' Affairs Committee's staff.
  We recently had a ceremony with Brigadier General Wilma Vaught. She 
was the first woman to reach the brigadier general status and was the 
first woman to deploy within the Air Force bomber unit. She is an 
inspiration to us.
  One of the important reasons for doing this bill now is that we 
learned recently during a hearing in the Veterans' Affairs Committee 
that women are the fastest growing group of veterans but that, often, 
our women veterans do not access the VA benefits, including health 
benefits and cemetery benefits, to which they are entitled. We need to 
encourage women who have served the country. You have served us, and 
now it is our turn to serve you. We need to encourage our women 
veterans to come forward for the benefits they deserve.
  I thank my colleague from Arizona, and I thank my colleagues on both 
sides of the aisle for bringing this bill forward. It is an important 
bill, and it is a great time to do it.
  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman 
from Sixth District of Colorado (Mr. Coffman), another combat veteran 
and a member of our Veterans' Affairs Committee.
  Mr. COFFMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 4336.
  In Colorado Springs, Colorado, a monument stands to honor the Women 
Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs. With this legislation, we salute 
them today, and we recognize that we neglected to salute them for far 
too long.
  During World War II, more than 1,000 WASPs flew over 60 million air 
miles. Without official military recognition, families were forced to 
pay out of pocket to send 36 fallen comrades home. After the war, the 
United States continued to deny them military status despite their 
extraordinary service to our country.
  Today, we can help correct some of that injustice. H.R. 4336 would 
restore the right for these women to be buried at Arlington. These 
women paved the way for the women in uniform today. They endured 
gender-based discrimination for years, and they served and died just as 
other members of the military did. I believe they belong in Arlington.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the 
gentlewoman from New Jersey (Mrs. Watson Coleman).
  Mrs. WATSON COLEMAN. I thank the gentlewoman from Florida for giving 
me this opportunity to stand up here during Women's History Month and 
to say this is a bipartisan piece of legislation that is well done and 
overdue.
  Mr. Speaker, I am proud that there were women who went before me who 
were brave and who were courageous and who did all of the jobs that 
were asked of them in a manner that was of high standard. They gave and 
sacrificed on my behalf, and now we have the opportunity to eliminate 
some of the last vestiges of disparate treatment or secondary 
treatment, or treating them as second-class citizens.
  I rise in support of this legislation, and I congratulate my 
colleagues on both sides of the aisle for having brought this to our 
attention and for giving us the opportunity to express our support.
  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the 
gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. Abraham), a veteran himself and the 
chairman of the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial 
Affairs on the Veterans' Affairs Committee.
  Mr. ABRAHAM. I thank the chairman.
  Mr. Speaker, I am here to urge my colleagues to support this 
important piece of legislation that recognizes the services of certain 
groups of men and women who have valiantly served their country.
  When the GI Bill Improvement Act became law in 1977, it contained 
language that was championed by Senator Barry Goldwater and by 
Louisiana's own Lindy Boggs that deemed certain groups of women, 
civilians, and foreigners who served the United States as Active Duty 
in order to qualify for benefits administered by the VA. Ultimately, 
nearly 35 groups have been made eligible for benefits through that law. 
These include the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the U.S. merchant 
seamen who served on blockships in Operation Mulberry on D-Day, male 
civilian ferry pilots, U.S. civilians of the American Field Service, 
and many, many more.
  In recognition of their service, the cremated remains of these groups 
may be inurned in all cemeteries under the jurisdiction of the VA. 
However, Arlington National Cemetery is under the jurisdiction of the 
Department of Defense, not of the VA. This bill recognizes all of the 
individuals who are eligible to have their cremated remains inurned in 
Arlington National Cemetery to include groups that have been given 
veteran status in the GI Bill Improvement Act, including the WASPs.

  Decades after Congresswoman Boggs championed this legislation, I am 
proud to continue Louisiana's long tradition of support for these 
groups by cosponsoring this bill.
  I thank, most greatly, Congresswoman McSally for introducing this 
very important piece of legislation, and I urge my colleagues to 
support it. It is long past due that we recognize these women and men 
who have served this country.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman 
from the 12th District of Illinois (Mr. Bost), a marine and a member of 
our Veterans' Affairs Committee.
  Mr. BOST. I thank the chairman.
  Mr. Speaker, World War II was a time when Americans came together to 
defend this Nation against evil. Entire families enlisted in this 
effort, which included many brave and dedicated women of the Women 
Airforce Service Pilots, or WASPs.

[[Page H1531]]

  The WASPs flew military aircraft in noncombat roles, and they served 
as instructors for male pilots. When the WASP program was created, it 
was intended that these women would receive full military status. 
Sadly, this goal has not been achieved. That is why H.R. 4336 is so 
important. It overturns a previous Army directive and restores the 
burial rights in Arlington National Cemetery for WASP veterans.
  I ask that all of my colleagues join me in supporting these women's 
rights of putting them in the place they need to be and in receiving 
those full military benefits.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the 
gentleman from the Second District of Texas (Mr. Poe).
  Mr. POE of Texas. I thank the chairman for yielding time.
  Mr. Speaker, during the peak of World War II, Sandy Thompson, now a 
Houston resident, left her teaching job and received her aviation wings 
on September 11, 1943. She had just volunteered for the Women Airforce 
Service Pilots, known as the WASPs.
  These pilots had towed targets for live antiaircraft practice. Think 
about that, Mr. Speaker. They are in the air, and these young teenagers 
are learning how to shoot antiaircraft guns and to aim them at the 
targets behind these female pilots who are pulling these--a dangerous 
occupation. These pilots helped deliver planes to overseas bases, and 
they tested new aircraft that was used in the Pacific and used in 
Europe, and, of course, they trained male pilots who went overseas.
  Of the 1,000 women who were WASPs, 38 were killed during their 
missions, and 16 of these original pilots of World War II now live in 
my State of Texas.
  They were considered civilians until 1977. Then Congress gave them 
veteran status. In 2002, the WASPs were allowed to be cremated and have 
their ashes placed in Arlington National Cemetery--right down the 
street from this building. Now bureaucrats have decided that these 
veterans are not worthy of a proper military burial, and they have 
revoked the burial rights at Arlington because of space. This is 
disgraceful, shameful, and is a sorry excuse to dishonor them.
  Find space to permanently honor these women. As a former member of 
the United States Air Force Reserves, I urge that we show respect to 
these pilots--give them proper burials, and pass this legislation.
  And that is just the way it is.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the 
gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Fudge).
  Ms. FUDGE. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
  Mr. Speaker, first, let me thank all of the men and women who have 
sacrificed and served this Nation.
  I can't imagine why any person of sound mind would deny women the 
right to the same benefits, to the same recognition that men get who 
serve this Nation. I would think that not one person would deny them 
this right. I cannot imagine why those who serve would have to fight 
for the dignity that each and every single person who serves this 
country should have.
  I support this legislation, and I support the people who support it. 
Anybody who doesn't should not be in this building.
  Mr. MILLER of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the 
gentleman from the 27th District of the Lone Star State, Texas (Mr. 
Farenthold).
  Mr. FARENTHOLD. I thank the chairman.
  Mr. Speaker, it shouldn't take an act of Congress for these women to 
be inurned in Arlington National Cemetery. We have heard from numerous 
people on both sides of the aisle that this is simply the right thing 
to do. The Army should have just said, ``Yes, let's get them buried 
there.'' The President should have used his pen and phone and ordered 
the Army to do it if they wouldn't. Guess what. We are here now, and it 
is going to take an act of Congress, and it is going to be a very 
strong act of Congress. I can't imagine not passing this out of this 
House unanimously, and I suspect we will see similar results in the 
Senate.
  The remains of this woman should not have to rest in her 
granddaughter's closet. They should be inurned in Arlington now. I urge 
my colleagues to pass this bill unanimously. I urge the Senate to act 
quickly. I urge President Obama to sign this into law. It is, simply, 
the right thing to do. We have just got to do it.
  Ms. BROWN of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my 
time.
  In recent hearings, many of the service organizations have indicated 
that this was one of their top priorities. Women have served in every 
single war in this country, and they deserve the same benefits and 
recognition as men.
  I urge my colleagues to support this important and timely bill in 
order to honor those brave women and others whose efforts were 
essential in the victory of World War II.
  I yield back the balance of my time.

                              {time}  1445

  Again, I encourage all my fellow colleagues to support H.R. 4336, as 
amended.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 
4336, ``Women Airforce Service Pilot Arlington Inurnment Restoration 
Act of 2016'' which directs the Department of the Army to ensure that 
the cremated remains of persons who served as Women's Air Forces 
Service Pilots are eligible for interment in Arlington National 
Cemetery with full military honors.
  I support this legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Martha McSally 
of Arizona, because the women who have devoted their lives to the armed 
services deserve appropriate recognition and praise for their 
sacrifice.
  This important bill provides the remains of a person who dies on or 
after the date of the enactment of this Act, and whose service has been 
determined to be active duty, eligibility for inurnment in Arlington 
National Cemetery.
  The Secretary of the Army shall submit to the Committees on Veterans' 
Affairs and the Committees on Armed Services of the House of 
Representatives and the Senate a report on the interment and inurnment 
capacity of Arlington National Cemetery.
  With respect to the unique and iconic meaning of the cemetery to the 
United States, the Secretary of the Army determines necessary 
considerations for additional expansion opportunities beyond the 
current boundaries of the cemetery.
  The Secretary of the Army must submit the estimated date the cemetery 
will reach maximum interment and inurnment capacity.
  The Secretary of the Army has the ability to redefine eligibility 
criteria for interment and inurnment in the cemetery.
  Implementation of the arrangements necessary to facilitate the burial 
of the cremated remains should be a priority.
  It is our responsibility to ensure that the suitable recognition is 
provided to Americans who have devoted their time and physical 
assistance towards our freedom.
  This bill actively displays our gratitude towards all who 
participated in the armed services.
  Even after death, we reflect on their contributions with our hearts 
and minds for those who put themselves in harm's way to protect our 
nation.
  I urge all Members to join me in voting to pass H.R. 4336.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Florida (Mr. Miller) that the House suspend the rules 
and pass the bill, H.R. 4336, as amended.
  The question was taken.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds 
being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.
  Ms. McSALLY. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further 
proceedings on this motion will be postponed.

                          ____________________