M.J. Hegar, a former Air Force combat search and rescue pilot and Democrat running for Congress in Texas, shares her story in a political ad that’s gone viral.
MAJOR MJ HEGAR is a hero twice over—a Purple Heart-decorated pilot, and the soldier who challenged a discriminatory military policy, winning women the right to serve on the front lines for the first time. She’s also the author of the new memoir Shoot Like a Girl—a soon-to-be major motion picture. Hegar’s exceptional grit shows that fighting for what you believe in—in enemy territory and beyond—is always worthwhile.
ajor Mary Jennings Hegar was once praised on the gun range by her superior for “shooting like a girl”—an ironic compliment that inspired the title of Shoot Like a Girl, her new memoir. Before the book, Hegar risked her life on a near-daily basis, completing three tours of Afghanistan as a pilot with the Air National Guard. As she told Cosmopolitan, “I took a bullet through the windshield that fragmented into several pieces, and I got pieces of it in my arm and leg, my right arm and leg.” Still, continued to co-pilot despite increasingly harrowing circumstances. In keynotes that arrest both the heart and mind, she discusses the importance of teamwork as well as individual advocacy, inspiring us to embody the change we seek. “However you want to behave yourself, you have to be that every single day. Integrity, poise, composure. You have to be that every single day,” says Hegar. “You have to check the mail with integrity.”
In 2009, Major Hegar saved her team from Taliban capture after their Medevac helicopter was shot down. Awarded both the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device, Major Hegar’s bravery in battle carried through to her landmark lawsuit against the Department of Defense to eliminate the Ground Combat Exclusion Policy that kept women from taking combat positions. After being denied a position in the Air Force, Hegar sued the Secretary of Defense, asserting that the Combat Exclusion Policy—which prevented women from entering direct combat—was unconstitutional.
As she recently told Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, “There shouldn’t be two standards for women and men, there should be a standard for this job: To do this job, you should have to do these things. And those requirements should be job-specific and not arbitrarily high in order to specifically keep women out.” In a historic decision, the policy was repealed in 2013. Because of her, no soldier will ever be excluded from combat because of her gender.
Senator John McCain calls Shoot Like A Girl “a must-read about an American patriot whose courage and determination will have a lasting impact on the future of our Armed Forces and the nation.” Film rights to Shoot Like a Girl were sold to TriStar Pictures in a bidding war. As vivid a storyteller on the page as on the stage, Hegar works as a medical consultant, continues to mentor cadets, and serves on the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Advisory Committee. In May of 2017, she joined the Board of Directors at the Texas Advocacy Project, an organization that provides legal representation and advocacy for victims of domestic abuse.
My whole life has been about opening, pushing, and sometimes kicking through every door in my way. Ready for a Congress that opens doors for Americans instead of slamming them in our faces? Then join our campaign by donating today: https://bit.ly/2MOp4Ye