2023 Gala Honoree – Erin Miller

Erin Miller

Erin Miller is the proud granddaughter of Elaine Danforth Harmon, a Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) member 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.

The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was a women pilots’ organization, whose members were officially United States federal civil service employees. Members of WASP became trained pilots who tested aircraft, ferried aircraft, and trained other pilots. Their purpose was to free male pilots from combat roles. Despite various members of the armed forces being involved in creating the program, the WASP and its members were given no military standing.

The records of the WASP program, like nearly all wartime files, were classified and sealed for 35 years making their contributions to the war effort little known and inaccessible to historians. However, there were unofficial historians, like WASP, Marty Wyall, who collected scrapbooks and newspaper clipping about what the WASP members had done and what they had gone on to do. Wyall also suggested in 1964, at a Ninety-Nines convention, that the remaining WASP members should meet up with one another every other year.

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 recognize the service of WASP as eligible for ANC officially. The funeral was held on 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