VFW Post 3150 Hosts Reception Following WASP Funeral
John Lyon VFW Post 3150 was honored to serve as the location for a reception following the funeral for Ms. Ola M. “Millie” Rexroat, who served during WWII and was the only Native American pilot in the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
Ms. Rexroat (29 Aug., 1917 – 28 June, 2017) was a member of the Oglala Tribe of the Lakota Nation who was originally from Kansas but grew up in South Dakota where she graduated from high school. She later went on to complete her studies for a bachelor’s degree in arts from the University of New Mexico in 1939.
When the United States entered World War II, Millie, and her mother and sisters moved to Washington, D.C. and worked at the Army War College. She was not satisfied with just doing paperwork and considered joining the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) or the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services (WAVES). When she received no reply from the Marine Corps, she said “I thought, if I had some background of doing something, maybe I could, you know, do something that really made a difference. And that’s how I happened to think about…if I could do something like fly.”
She had no prior flying experience and found a local flight school that offered lessons for $8 an hour. She qualified to apply for the WASPs after 35 hours of flight training and went on to Sweetwater, Texas in early 1944 for formal training. She was stationed at Eagle Pass Army Airfield where she was assigned to the highly dangerous job of towing aerial gunnery targets during live fire exercises for male pilots in training and ground antiaircraft artillery. She noted to others, “You didn’t have time to be frightened or scared or anything like that. I was usually more concerned about my landings”. There were 38 WASPs who lost their lives in service to the United States before they were disbanded in December, 1944 and one of them, who crashed, is still listing as “Missing”.
After World War II she served in the Air Force as an Air Traffic Controller for 10 years. She was married to Arthur McDonald. She was residing at the Michael J. Fitzmaurice Veterans Nursing Home in Hot Springs, S.D. when she passed away at age 99, she was survived by her only son, Forrest McDonald.
She and the other members of the WASPs were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for their service in June, 2013.
On 29 March, 2019 members of Millie’s family, friends and members of USCG Port Service Unit 303(b) – Desert Storm – joined together for an inurnment service held at Arlington National Cemetery.They came together from across the nation (California, Illinois, South Dakota, New York and New Jersey) as well as locally to honor a special person who served her nation as a part of the “Greatest Generation”.
By: Cathy Graham, Auxiliary Historian, Dept. of Virginia