/PRNewswire/ -- AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AAI) , today congratulates the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) as they receive the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress, the Congressional Gold Medal for their heroic service during World War II.
In 1942 and 1943, more than 1,000 women answered the call of duty, accumulating more than 60 million flight miles, ferrying all types of aircraft from factories to the front lines, providing training to male combat aviators, testing aircraft and even towing aerial targets for anti-aircraft artillery units. During that time, 38 WASPs made the ultimate sacrifice.
"We are overjoyed to see these pioneers and real American heroes finally recognized for their contributions and we are truly honored to salute them today along with a grateful nation," said Tad Hutcheson, AirTran Airways' vice president of marketing and sales. "To be able to fly some of these living heroes to this ceremony is a singular honor for the 8,500 Crew Members of AirTran Airways."
The low-cost carrier is an official sponsor of the group's festivities in Washington this week and offered complimentary flights to the ceremony for all living WASPs. The Company has a long history of supporting female aviation professionals from both the pilot ranks and throughout the industry.
"We are extremely grateful to AirTran Airways for stepping up to pay tribute to our WASPs, who after 66 years are finally receiving recognition for what they did for our country during World War II," said Brigadier General Wilma Vaught (ret). "Our corporate sponsors helped make the tribute special. I am a proud AirTran customer."
WASPs were officially classified as civilians by the U.S. government and were not considered to be members of the military during their service. They were responsible for providing their own transportation to and from duty and were not afforded veteran status until 1977. President Obama signed the bill officially awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the WASPs on July 1, 2009.
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