Major Mary Jennings Hegar was recruited to serve in the Air National Guard through her ROTC program at the University of Texas. She was then deployed three times to Afghanistan, flying Medevac and Combat Search and Rescue missions. In 2009, her unit was shot down by enemy combatants. Despite sustaining serious injuries, Hegar was able to continue flying the helicopter while returning fire, ultimately saving the lives of her crew and patients. She was awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, becoming the second woman to do so.
Her service to her country did not end there. In 2012, Hegar took action against the Defense Department in opposition to the Combat Exclusion Policy which forbade women from joining ground combat missions. This rule often left many female military personnel from receiving recognition for their role in combat duty. Hegar won the case, arguing that gender should not be a factor when selecting combat personnel. The policy has since been repealed, though that does not mean the U.S. military is out of the woods when it comes to the treatment of the women who are serving our country.
She currently teaches at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, working closely with the school’s AFROTC cadets. Hagar’s memoir, Shoot Like a Girl, discusses her struggles both on the battlefield and at home fighting for gender equality in the military. The book is currently being considered for a film adaptation starring Angelina Jolie.