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Woman vet awarded Purple Heart: ‘My gender just never came up’ in combat

By David Ferguson
Friday, January 25, 2013 11:35 EDT
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Maj. M.J. Hegar via screencap
 
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Thursday night on Current TV’s “Viewpoint,” host John Fugelsang was joined by Air National Guard search and rescue pilot Maj. M.J. Hegar, who was awarded a Purple Heart medal after being injured in the line of duty. Hegar is one of the plaintiffs in an ACLU lawsuit challenging the Department of Defense’s “combat exclusion” policy that was filed against the Pentagon in November.

Hegar addressed the announcement yesterday by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that the Pentagon is lifting its ban on women fighting in combat roles in the military. She also discussed a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece claiming “unit cohesion” would be disrupted if women are allowed in combat.

She said that “unit cohesion” was used as an excuse by naysayers when the military became racially integrated, and that it made about as much sense then. “My response to that is that when you’re in a vulnerable situation, and whether that’s hygiene or having bullets fly and watching your life flash before your eyes, any vulnerable position you’re in, it’s uncomfortable to have strangers next to you.”

That, she said, is the current situation.

“We cannot accomplish the mission without the women that are there right now serving in combat,” said Hegar. “And because they’ve been denied the proper duty titles and the training opportunities to train alongside the men that they’re fighting with, they are relative strangers and the men don’t have any idea what their abilities are because we didn’t train together.”

Lifting the ban will enable fighting forces to train together, she said, and allow them to run integrated combat simulations in which male and female soldiers will learn to work together as a cohesive team, rather than leaving them to get acquainted only under fire.

“When I was in Afghanistan on my third tour, I got shot down and actually was wounded so I was covered in blood,” she said. “There was none of the…hypothetical over-chivalrous behavior or uncomfortableness because I was a female. I was a warrior, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with Spec Ops, I was returning fire with the enemy on the ground and my gender just never came up.”

Watch the video, embedded below via Current TV:

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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