CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. -- Florence Shutsy-Reynolds was one of the many women who flew for the United States during World War II, but for years, many people never knew about their service.
She answered the call almost 70 years ago, at the age of 18. And on Friday, the 88-year-old woman donated her prized Congressional Gold Medal medal to the Connellsville Area Historical Society. "Perhaps it will inspire some young girl that the door now has been opened for opportunity," Shutsy-Reynolds told Channel 4 Action News anchor Sally Wiggin. During World War II, a select group of young women pilots became pioneers, heroes and role models. They were the Women Airforce Service Pilots, the first women in history trained to fly American military aircraft.
The WASPs did everything but combat. They flew test flights and trained male cadets, and 38 of them died doing their duty. "When the war in Europe was winding down, they decided it was time for us to go, so they took our records and buried them," Shutsy-Reynolds said. Last year, Shutsy-Reynolds and other surviving WASPS got their long-delayed recognition when they received congressional medals. Now, hers belongs to the local historical society. "I owe much to this city. They supported me when I first started to fly and were always kind to me. This is my show of appreciation," Shutsy-Reynolds said. "I am not surprised," said Karen Hechler, president of the historical society. "She gives everything she has to other people, and it's just another step to bring the legacy forward, and to show exactly what they have done." Tech Sgt. Christy Helgeson, a flight crew chief, is one of those inspired. She was Shutsy-Reynolds' military escort at the gold medal ceremony on Capitol Hill last year. Shutsy-Reynolds is not only a war hero who inspires young women across the country. She's a silversmith who took wings and made them into bracelets, one of which Helgeson wore Friday.