When Arlington National Cemetery refused to accept Erin Miller's grandmother's last request to be laid to rest there, she refused to let her legacy as a veteran die along with her.
Erin's grandmother, Elaine Danforth Harmon, flew as a pilot with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) of World War II. Despite being part of the first group of women to fly for the United States Army, the WASP remained officially unrecognized as members of the military due to discriminatory thinking about gender on Capitol Hill and beyond. Women flying planes? Too progressive for the World War II era.
When Erin was young, she thought of her grandmother's trips to accept awards, or to visit the White House, or to give lectures about her time in the service, as her hobby. She knew what she had done and she knew that in the 1970s they had lobbied Congress to get the veterans' status they had been denied during the war. From that point on, Erin's grandmother shared her story of service with the WASP during World War II with anyone who would listen.
But it was not until after she died that Erin fully understood why had spent so many years talking about her service with the WASP. My grandmother's last request was to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Our family was surprised when the United States Army, which managed the cemetery, denied that the WASP, and therefore my grandmother, were eligible for placement in the cemetery.
The Army said 'no' to the wrong family.
Erin led her family's campaign on behalf of her grandmother, and all the women of the WASP, across social media, traditional news outlets, and to Capitol Hill to fight for their equal recognition at one of the nation's most well-known cemeteries. grandmother's final fight came after her final flight - but she was honored to follow in her footsteps to ensure her legacy would not be forgotten.
Erin Miller is the proud granddaughter of Elaine Danforth Harmon, a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) during WWII. Her grandmother’s last request was to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). After she died in April 2015, this request was denied by the US Army which runs ANC. Erin led a grassroots, social media, and direct lobbying campaign to fight the decision. This campaign was a success.
On May 20, 2016 President Obama signed H.R. 4336, the bill introduced in Congress by Representative Martha McSally (AZ-2) in January 2016, which then became a law to officially recognize the service of WASP as eligible for ANC. The funeral was held September 7, 2016 at ANC. This was followed by a family memorial service at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, where Erin, her mother Terry, her sister Tiffany, Air Force pilots Lt. Col. Caroline Jensen and Maj. Heather Penney, and Representative Martha McSally spoke to honor Elaine's life and service. Erin is a licensed attorney in Maryland. She has a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law, a Master’s in International Studies from the University of Leeds (UK), and a B.A. in History from the University of California, San Diego.