MJ Hegar

Doors - June 20, 2018

MJ Hegar
June 20, 2018
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Campaign status: Lost

HEGAR: This is a story about doors – a lot of them. And that's me – MJ Hegar, an Air Force combat veteran and a mom. This door behind me is from my Pave Hawk helicopter. It's all that's left of the aircraft that I was flying that day. I was on a rescue mission in Afghanistan as a combat search-and-rescue pilot. I heard the windshield crack and realized I'd been shot, but continued the mission and airlifted the patients out. After taking even more fire, we crashed a few miles away. But my story begins much earlier. One of my first memories was another door, but it was my dad throwing my mom through a glass one. Three years later, Mom got the courage to walk out the door, and she opened a new one for my sister and me here in Texas. And it was here that I put my foot on the gas and followed my dream to be a pilot. And that meant opening, pushing, sometimes kicking through every door that was in my way. I signed up for ROTC at UT, then I was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. I served five years in aircraft maintenance, working on the F-16 and the B2. I managed to get one of only a handful of slots for flight school, then I spent a year training to fly. I flew water drops over wildfires in California and eventually served three tours in Afghanistan. And then, the crash. Two Army helicopters rescued us from the wreckage. I strapped myself to the skids and returned fire on the Taliban while we flew to safety. That got me a Purple Heart, and I became the second woman ever awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor. But after that, the door closed. Injured and unable to fly, I was barred from my next career choice because I was a woman. So, I came home. I worked in health care and business. I got married and started my family. Wait – barred because I was a woman? That's ridiculous! So I sued the Pentagon. But not just about that job – about the ban on women serving in all ground combat jobs. And I went to DC to lobby Congress, but door after door was slammed in my face. I heard things like, "My boss agrees with you, but you aren't in a position to do anything for him." "You're not one of our donors." Well eventually…

VIDEO CLIP OF LEON PANETTA: We are eliminating the direct ground combat exclusion rules for women.

HEGAR: We won, and that opened the door for hundreds of thousands of women to compete for elite ground combat jobs – a major victory for our military. Hold on, back up a minute. Not one of his donors? That's not how this is supposed to work. One of those closed doors was my congressman, Tea Party Republican John Carter. Apparently being his constituent and a veteran wasn't enough to get a meeting. I guess I also needed to be a donor. So now I'm running against him, taking on a system that cares more about campaign donors and political parties than protecting our country. Congressman Carter hasn't had a tough race his entire career, so we'll show him tough, then we'll show him the door.