WASP To Receive Top Civilian Honor

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Legislation honoring the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who flew more than 60,000,000 miles from 1942 to 1944 on every type of assignment but air combat has passed both houses of Congress. The Hutchison-Mikulski Bill on June 16 passed the House, sponsored by 334 representatives. It had passed the Senate in May, co-sponsored by 75 senators. Upon the signature of President Barack Obama, the bill will award the women with the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their service. The medal, awarded by Congress, is the highest honor a civilian may receive, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and is bestowed for exceptional acts of service to the United States. Said Senator Hutchison of the Bill's passage, "The day that surviving WASP, and the families of those who have passed, get to hold these medals in their hands is at last on the horizon." During their service, the women were never awarded full military status, were ineligible for officer status and afterward were not granted veterans' status until 1977. Some 300 of the women have lived to see the bill pass.

The medal will be custom-designed to uniquely represent those being honored. Once minted, the medal will leave its first copy on display at the Smithsonian Institution. Congressional Gold Medals will be awarded to all 1,102 pilots or, in their stead, surviving family.