Honoring the Life of Frances Sargentby Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Posted on 2014-01-14
ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the memory of
Frances Rohrer Sargent, a courageous woman who selflessly helped defend
our country during World War II. Being a member of the renowned Women
Airforce Service Pilots or WASP, Frances pushed beyond the boundaries
that limited opportunities at that time for women of her generation.
The Women Airforce Service Pilots were the first women to fly military aircraft, flying noncombat operations between the years 1942 and 1944.
These pioneers paved the way for women pilots to fly nearly every type of military aircraft from F/A-18 to the [[Page H186]] space shuttle today. My daughter-in-law, Lindsay, flew combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan for the marines, but she would not have been able to do so without the women who came before her, Frances and all the other members of WASP.
Frances had a fulfilled life. She began flying at the age of 22 in Atlanta and would come to be one of only 1,704 women who were accepted to the prestigious Women Airforce Service Pilots, WASP, out of more than 25,000 women who had applied for the program.
Frances and other female pilots from our south Florida community, including Helen Wyatt Snapp, Ruth Schafer Fleisher, Shirley Kruse, and Bee Haydu, flew more than 60 million miles between '42 and '44.
As the author of the legislation awarding WASP the Congressional Gold Medal in the year 2009, I had the privilege to present the award to Frances Sargent for her patriotic service. The Congressional Gold Medal, as we know, is the highest civilian award in the United States; and it was presented to these women who were the first females to ever fly military aircraft. Their missions were mainly composed of safeguarding the U.S. coastal line so that male pilots could take on combat roles abroad.
Quite often Frances' life and that of her colleagues were on the line with constant attacks from enemy forces. The service of the WASPs to the U.S. military greatly contributed to the triumph and success of the U.S. and our allies in the defeat of the Axis powers during World War II.
Frances' deep passion for flying is what led her to pursue flight and become part of the prestigious WASPs. She never sought to break the barriers for women, but through her service she demonstrated her excellent skills that made her as well qualified a pilot as any of the male pilots in the military.
With her success, and that of her many other female pilots, more opportunities then became available for women in all fields.
After her retirement from WASP, Frances continued her love of flying by passing on her skills that she had gained. She became a professor at my alma mater, Miami-Dade College, where she took charge of developing the aviation program.
South Florida has been blessed to have had true heroines like Frances Rohrer Sargent, and we honor the service of her and her fellow south Florida WASP patriots: Helen Wyatt Snapp, Ruth Schafer Fleisher, Shirley Kruse, and Bee Haydu.
Aim high. Fly, fight, and win.