PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Author Mary Jennings Hegar detailed her time fighting in Afghanistan, a lawsuit filed against the Department of Defense that played a role in the removal of restrictions against women in combat and learning that Angelina Jolie will play her in a film based on her memoir in an interview with Chris Stigall on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT.
Hegar recounted her experience of being shot down in a helicopter during a rescue mission for which she was rewarded a purple heart.
“We were picking up three injured American soldiers off the battlefield whose convoy had hit an IED. Went in to get them, took a lot of fire. One of the bullets actually went through the windshield and shattered. I took a bunch of shrapnel in the right arm and leg, but it was all superficial damage. The aircraft was so disabled that when we tried to take off with our patients, it was pretty clear we weren’t going to make it very far so we executed a hard landing/soft crash, if you will, and then had to defend our perimeter for about 20 minutes while the enemy was encroaching and trying to take us prisoner.”
Regarding the legal action against then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, she says the suit provided the impetus to make changes that many in the chain of command already wanted to enact.
“I did it because I saw how that policy was actually really hurting the military and tying the hands of the commanders in the field. He repealed the policy, actually, in response to my lawsuit, another lawsuit and then the unanimous recommendation from his Joint Chiefs of Staff. It actually really was all of us getting together and giving Leon Panetta enough ammunition to defend his desire to repeal the policy.”
Hegar revealed she also inspired by her step-daughter, who has always wanted to serve in the Marines.
“She had always told me she wanted to be a Marine and she came to me in tears saying that someone told her she couldn’t be a Marine because that was a boy’s job. She was like, how could you not tell me that? How could you let me go on wanting to do this? So I promised her I would do something about that. I didn’t know what at the time but I would try to figure out something to do to show her that that wasn’t true. The ACLU called me the very next day and said do you want to be part of this lawsuit? Absolutely.’
She thinks the restrictions placed on women’s service were misguided to begin with and is glad to see them gone.
“You can’t legislate protection for an entire gender. You can’t legislate protection for half the population. We don’t live in a society where we would create a law that says that women aren’t allowed to walk down a dark alley at two o’clock in the morning by themselves. Is it a smart thing to do? Is it a safe thing to do? Probably not, but do you want to live in a country where we’re going to legislate women needing escorts and having curfews?”
Hegar was shocked at the success of her book, Shoot Like A Girl, and that it could soon be a major film release.
“It’s terrifying for me because I’m actually an introvert and pretty private person. I got convinced to write this memoir and then it immediately sold to to Tri-Star. I thought, maybe they’ll make a small, little indie film that gets released at Sundance and then Angelina Jolie got attached and I was like, well, shoot.”