Veteran Mary Jennings Hegar Defies Stereotypes

Mary Jennings Hegar is probably one of the bravest people on the planet. In her recent memoir Shoot Like a Girl, the helicopter pilot proudly recounts the way she dealt with being shot down by the Taliban—in Afghanistan, of all places. Hegar’s ability to return fire was what saved her entire crew, and this is why she was rewarded with a Purple Heart. On a recent appearance on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Hegar told many stories about her time in serving for the United States.


Telling a diverse assortment of tales ranging from the time she was shot down to a lighthearted story about what happened after she and her crew flew over a burning marijuana field, Hegar is definitely a veteran with a strong point of view. It is this strength of perspective that has led to her speaking out on the issue of women in combat. In fact, it was in 2012 that Hegar and the ACLU led the charge for this to become a reality.


During her interview with NPR, Hegar pointed out that modern warfare is not simply a contest of strength. In fact, her book was titled Shoot like a Girl because she was once told that women possess better sniper skills than men, simply due to facts of anatomy. She also sheds light upon the fact that women who are limited by the no-combat designation are often passed up for promotions because they aren’t given some of the same honors.


During one part of the discussion, Gross and Hegar are joined by Hegar’s infant baby. As the baby begins to make noise, the two women joke about the different hats that females wear in this society. Hegar ends the interview by making a point that women can be both mothers and warriors.