There are people who have blazed trails for us who not only have we have never met, but until some event occurs we never really understand who they who they were or why they were even important in our lives. I had that type of moment today as I read and listened to the reports of the WASPS– Women Airforce Service Pilots – the first women to fly American’s military aircraft in the early 40’s. These women flew airplanes, and sometimes gave their lives, during WWII as part of the Airforce and in service of our country, forever changing the role of women in aviation. Yesterday they received the Congressional Metal of Honor finally getting the recognition they never got when they served our country.
Back in the day, the 1940’s – when so much was asked on American citizens – these women paid to learn how to fly out of their own pockets and then once certified, enrolled in the WASP program to fly, test and transport airplanes. The WASPs flew over 60 million miles for the Air Force. Some of these women even flew planes that were targets for male Airforce pilots to practice shooting on … with live ammunition! After the war ended, men took over their jobs and the ladies went home. The WASPS were never recognized for their service. These ladies never received military honors for their dead, veteran benefits for their health, or even a pension in recognition of their service. They just went home. And for many years they accepted it because “that was the way it was”. They went on with their lives. Their WASP experience and memories were relegated to stories at gatherings and scrap books.
But then something happened, a trigger. An announcement by the US Air Force in the 1970’s that the first women were going to enter the Air Force and fly. The WASPs were clearly the first. The ladies of WASP united, rallied and over the years created more and more awareness and education for who and what they did. Yesterday, finally after 65 years, the ladies received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their service and the long overdue official recognition they deserved. No longer would history be missing an important chapter of WWII and America!
How many of us – be it in business or our personal lives – do something, discover something important or come up with an amazing idea but move on never to share that idea, deed or discovery to inspire or create positive change? Perhaps we didn’t realize it was profound or inspirational. Perhaps, we felt management, peers or family wouldn’t want to hear or accept it. Perhaps, we just assumed it wasn’t relevant to what you were doing at the time. We never pushed because ‘that is the way it is/was” and why bother? If the WASPs never bothered to speak up and fight for their place in history, we would never know of their great story and be inspired their contribution to aviation, women and the history of this country.
Think about it, if we always go with the status quo who will be that person making a difference? Our war stories will remain just that – for parties and gatherings and never be applied to something that matters. The ladies of WASP finally found their voice and they have clearly made a difference to all those around them. I didn’t see a dry eye in the house at the award ceremony as these women were saluted. There was not a dry eye in my house either. Ladies, thank you.