Erin Miller’s book “Final Flight, Final Fight” is a chronological account of the author’s journey to enshrine the memory and history of the WASP in stone — both literally and metaphorically — in a legally binding manner. The fight begins when Erin’s grandmother’s request to be buried at Arlington National Cemetary is denied. Erin and her family are appalled by the refusal, especially when considered against the precedent of several WASP who were buried there in the past. Yet instead of allowing the Army’s inconsistent policies and seemingly overt discrimination leave them bitter and dejected, the family uses this personal experience as a spark to light an entire movement of change. Seeing beyond the immediate implication of that rejection to bury their grandmother, Erin and her family consider the fate of other WASP; who, upon flying West, may make the same posthumous request. Subsequently, the Millers choose to fight, not only for “Gammy’s” admittance to the prestigious military burial site but for each of the WASP collectively.
Erin narrates the long, arduous, year-plus journey and where it leads them. Throughout the book, she recounts many anecdotes of her grandmother, both from her own personal experience and from Gammy’s friends and other relatives. These stories portray a fierce, frugal, witty, and selfless persona; illuminating within the reader’s mind the strong spirit of Elaine and her fellow aviatrixes. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this memoir is the contrast the author draws between Elaine, the former WASP, lobbyist, and volunteer school presenter; and Gammy, the practical family matriarch who stockpiled odds and ends and was famous throughout the neighborhood for her spirited Holloween traditions. The duality of this portrait of Elaine elicits deeper consideration that each person has many facets to her identity…layers that are ever-shifting and go beyond what she does for work or family.
While the book spares no detail when it comes to the technical aspects of organizing a movement, Erin doesn’t bog the reader down with unnecessary and supercilious legal jargon. From the earliest stages of starting a petition to navigating the office of Senators and Representatives alike — the author recounts plainly the who, when, where, why, and how as HR 4336 becomes sanctioned into federal law.
Beyond the recognition and honor that this book brings to Elaine and the WASP in general; it is an embodiment of the mantra “if you don’t like something — change it.” For that emboldened decisiveness and ready enthusiasm to share the WASP legacy, I believe Elaine D. Harmon would be proud. Final Flight, Final Fight is for any history buff, aviation enthusiast, female pilot seeking to learn more about the WASP, or individual who enjoys reading a story of strength and resilience.