WWII female pilots to be honored

Dorothy Goot and the thousand or so other women who served as pioneering pilots during World War II have been largely lost in history.

They were bold and brave and matter-of-fact about it all. After the war, they went on with their lives: stopped flying, had kids, doted on grandkids. They returned to civilian life with limitations on what and who they could be, almost as if all those missions had never happened.

But these women changed things for other women. They wore military uniforms, turning heads so often they stopped noticing the double-takes.

"I think it opened the door for women now who can do anything they want these days," said Goot, 87, who lives in Fair Oaks.

Goot and three other surviving members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots will be recognized during a Veterans Day celebration today at Veterans Memorial Plaza at Mather, site of the now-closed Air Force base. The theme will be "Women in the Military," and the event will include a speech by Brig. Gen. Mary J. Kight, assistant adjutant general for the California National Guard.

The ceremony promises to rekindle plenty of memories for Barbara Kennedy, Cappy Johnson, Goot, and Doris Ohm (who was not available for an interview due to illness). When the opportunity to fly arose during the war, they seized it because they loved everything about taking to the skies and because they knew their roles on the home front would free up men to go overseas and take it to the enemy.

The local ceremony is part of a larger effort to honor the women pilots as trailblazers. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, will participate in the Mather ceremony. The congressman was a co-sponsor of legislation to award the WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. Once it is minted, the women will be invited to Washington, D.C., to receive replicas of the medal.

When the time comes to bask in the overdue applause, the women may be wondering what all the fuss is about. They don't consider themselves heroes. They say they were simply pitching in, the way everyone did in those days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Fewer than 300 WASP members are still alive, and 14 have died since President Barack Obama signed the legislation in July.

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