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Sen. Klobuchar calls for Arlington National Cemetery to allow female WW2 pilots

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FARIBAULT, Minn. (KTTC) -

She taught them how to shoot and she taught them how to fly. A Faribault woman trained pilots for combat during World War ll. Now U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar wants to make sure she and others like her are honored for their service.

Elizabeth Strohfus, 96, is one of the last remaining "Women Airforce Service Pilots," a.k.a. WASPs. More than a thousand of them served during World War ll, and 38 of them died in the line of duty.

On Wednesday, Sen. Klobuchar announced she sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Eric Fanning (who is undergoing the confirmation process to become secretary of the Army), asking them to allow WASPs like Elizabeth to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery if they choose.

Sen. Klobuchar said a bill has been introduced as well, to help make that happen.

"I thought it's nice. If women wanted to be, they should be able to be buried in the military cemetery," said Strohfus. "Because they're veterans just like the boys are, and they should be recognized as veterans."

For Strohfus, her passion for flying started shortly after high school graduation when she got her first ride in a Piper Cub.

"I tell ya, they give you a flight in an airplane and I was sold. I wanted to fly," said Strohfus. "I love the thrill of flying. There's nothing like it." 

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Strohfus joined the Civil Air Patrol in Faribault. She then became a WASP in 1943. In that role, Strohfus worked as a trainer, teaching young combat pilots how to use cockpit instruments. Strohfus also helped teach cadets how to aim. She flew in a fighter plane while gunners practiced shooting at her using simulated guns with cameras.

"I just want to be sure they got a good look at me so I could scare the hell out of them," recalled Strohfus. "It was like playing combat, and I wanted the boys to have a good show before they went overseas to fight. I hoped I helped them because I wanted them all to live."

Strohfus said she had to work hard to prove herself to her male colleagues.

"They made fun of me. But I didn't care. They really didn't want women to fly those days," Strohfus said. "[But eventually,] they accepted me, you see. They accepted me as a pilot."

On Thursday, Sen. Klobuchar got a chance to thank Strohfus for her service.

"I just want you to know I took on this fight because of you," the senator told Strohfus over the phone. "Because I figure I can't change history, but I can change how you are honored."

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