Saturday, May 2, 2009

Delayed Recognition

As you may know, I served in the US Air Force for 10 years. You may or may not know that I went to the Air Force Academy and had dreams of being a pilot. I did get several opportunities to fly a glider and even got to “fly” an F-16 during a Cope Thunder exercise in Alaska, but I never became a pilot. Reading about the WASPs of WWII was one of the things that fueled (and still fuels) my dreams of flight. Now I have an opportunity, in a small way, to return the favor.

On 12 Mar 09, Sen Hutchison and Sen Mikulski introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII. As I understand it, the bill must have the support (as co-sponsors of the bill) of 2/3 of the House and Senate before it leaves the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee. In order for the bill to pass, and for the WASPs to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, two thirds of both the Senate and the House must actually vote for the bill after it gets out of study by the Senate Banking Committee, where it stands at this moment. I may have majored in Poli Sci, but must admit I need a refresher course in how a bill gets passed (does anyone else hear School House Rock in the back ground? “I’m just a bill, Yes, I’m only a bill…”).

The vote is scheduled for 8 May 09 and as of today, 2 May 09, they still need the support of 10 Senators and 112 Congressmen. At the Wings Across America website you can see which Senators and/or Congressmen have signed on to support this bill. If your representatives have not signed on, please take a moment and let them know you support this bill. E-mailing them is easy.

Visit “Soap Box Alert” enter your zip code and type a short e-mail. A sample message is: "I would like to urge Senator ___ to support S 614, awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots of WWII, known as the WASP. Please urge him to contact Senator Hutchison's or Senator Mikulski's office ASAP to sign on as a co-sponsor to the bill." Add whatever else you think might help. I sent e-mails to representatives from KY (my home state), VA (state of residence) and IL (current residence) as well as to Sen John McCain. I tried to make each e-mail a little bit personal so they would understand this bill actually means something to me. [Update 4 May: I called the offices of Sen Warner, Sen Webb, Sen Bunning and Sen McConnell to ask them to support S 614. First time I have ever called a politician...I have the power!! :) ]

I can't say it any better than Senator Hutchison when she said: “More than fifty years have passed since the intrepid Women Airforce Service Pilots bravely served in World War II, but these women have yet to receive the recognition they deserve. Even without formal acknowledgement, their service paved the way for all women who serve valiantly in the military today,” said Sen. Hutchison. “Just as the Navajo Code Talkers and the Tuskegee Airmen served their country with distinction in World War II, and were subsequently awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, it is appropriate for us to honor the service of the Women Airforce Service Pilots with Congress’ top award.”

Sen Hutchison’s media release also explained more about the Congressional Gold Medal. The Congressional Gold Medal is "awarded by Congress and, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is the highest and most distinguished honor a civilian may receive. The award is bestowed for exceptional acts of service to the United States or for lifetime achievement. Once approved by Congress, the U.S. Mint designs and creates each gold medal so that it uniquely represents the individual or event being honored. The original medal is then displayed at the Smithsonian Institution.”

There are only around 300 WASPs living today. When approved, the Congressional Gold Medals will be awarded to all 1,102 pilots and/or their surviving family members.

As one of our great presidents, Abraham Lincoln, once said: "Any nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure." Please join with me, take the time to look into this and then pass it on to friends and family, and help honor our heroes.

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