Pilot Jean Springer receives Congressional Gold Medal

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Pilot Jean Springer receives Congressional Gold Medal

cincinnati.com – WASHINGTON – It's bronze, really. But it's beautiful – and a long time coming.

It's the Congressional Gold Medal – the nation's highest civilian honor. It was awarded Wednesday to Jean Springer, 89, of Hyde Park, and about 180 other living veterans of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or WASP, program.

Excluded from flying in combat – and not even considered part of the U.S. Army – Springer and the other female pilots transported military personnel, towed targets for gunnery practice or shuttled planes from factories to the bases where they were needed.

These pioneers of women in aviation "blazed a trail in the sky," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican who co-sponsored the bill to honor the women.

The corps was unceremoniously disbanded in 1944, and the pilots were sent home – on their own dime. They were denied veterans' benefits – or even veterans' status – until 1977. Some continued careers in aviation. Many, like Springer, simply moved on with their lives, telling enthralled children years later of their harrowing adventures.

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