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Reservist helped honor WASPs

Lt. Col. Leslie Hadley, the 919th Special Operations Support Squadron commander, took part in honoring the Women Airforce Service Pilots at the National WASP WWII Museum recently. The WASPs are the group of female pilots that supported the Army Air Force during the second world war.  This was Hadley’s third time helping at an event for the women. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

Lt. Col. Leslie Hadley, the 919th Special Operations Support Squadron commander, took part in honoring the Women Airforce Service Pilots at the National WASP WWII Museum recently. The WASPs are the group of female pilots that supported the Army Air Force during the second world war. This was Hadley’s third time helping at an event for the women. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jasmin Taylor)

DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- A Duke Field reservist took part in honoring the Women Airforce Service Pilots at their annual homecoming recently.

Lt. Col. Leslie Hadley, the 919th Special Operations Support Squadron commander, participated in a memorial service and was a guest speaker at their luncheon at this year's annual celebration.

"They were pioneers, who laid the foundation for all women although they felt as if they were just 'doing their job and serving their country,'" said Hadley, who is Air Force Reserve Command's only fully qualified female Combat Aviation Advisor pilot.

The National WASP WWII Museum in Sweetwater, Texas honored the 14 WASPs in attendance.

During the memorial service, Hadley was one of two female Air Force pilots selected to spread the ashes of WASPs Betty Jo Reed and Eleanor "Gunny" Gunderson over the runways of Avenger Field where the WASPs trained from 1943-1944. She also presented a retired flag to Dave Hamory, son of Gunderson.

The training field became the WASP museum in 2005. These pilots and all of their efforts during WWII were not recognized by the U.S. government until 2010, when they (or their survivors) were each presented with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Hadley shared her unique Air Force story to the audience during the luncheon.

Hadley's first experience with the WASPs was in 2011 when she performed escort duty for the women at an air show in Odessa, Texas. After the event, she was invited to help with the annual homecoming the next year. Since then, she has become close with many WASPs and considers them friends and mentors.

"I have never met a group of women who are so humble and grateful to have served their country," she said.