Shoot Like a Girl
One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front
Major MJ Hegar is a hero twice over—a Purple Heart-decorated pilot, and the soldier who challenged a discriminatory military policy, winning women the right to serve on the front lines for the first time. She’s also the author of the new memoir Shoot Like a Girl—a soon-to-be major motion picture that’s set to star Angelina Jolie. Hegar’s exceptional grit shows that fighting for what you believe in—in enemy territory and beyond—is always worthwhile.
Major Mary Jennings Hegar was once praised on the gun range by her superior for “shooting like a girl”—an ironic compliment that inspired the title of Shoot Like a Girl, her new memoir. Before the book (and soon-to-be motion picture, with Angelina Jolie set to star), Hegar risked her life on a near-daily basis, completing three tours of Afghanistan as a pilot with the Air National Guard. As she told Cosmopolitan, “I took a bullet through the windshield that fragmented into several pieces, and I got pieces of it in my arm and leg, my right arm and leg.” Still, continued to co-pilot despite increasingly harrowing circumstances. In keynotes that arrest both the heart and mind, she discusses the importance of teamwork as well as individual advocacy, inspiring us to embody the change we seek. “However you want to behave yourself, you have to be that every single day. Integrity, poise, composure. You have to be that every single day,” says Hegar. “You have to check the mail with integrity.”
“Shoot Like A Girl is a must-read about an American patriot whose courage and determination will have a lasting impact on the future of our Armed Forces and the nation.”— Senator John McCain
In 2009, Major Hegar saved her team from Taliban capture after their Medevac helicopter was shot down. Awarded both the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device, Major Hegar’s bravery in battle carried through to her landmark lawsuit against the Department of Defense to eliminate the Ground Combat Exclusion Policy that kept women from taking combat positions. After being denied a position in the Air Force, Hegar sued the Secretary of Defense, asserting that the Combat Exclusion Policy—which prevented women from entering direct combat—was unconstitutional. As she recently told Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, “There shouldn't be two standards for women and men, there should be a standard for this job: To do this job, you should have to do these things. And those requirements should be job-specific and not arbitrarily high in order to specifically keep women out.” In a historic decision, the policy was repealed in 2013. Because of her, no soldier will ever be excluded from combat because of her gender.
Senator John McCain calls Shoot Like A Girl “a must-read about an American patriot whose courage and determination will have a lasting impact on the future of our Armed Forces and the nation.” Film rights to Shoot Like a Girl were sold to TriStar Pictures in a bidding war. As vivid a storyteller on the page as on the stage, Hegar works as a medical consultant, continues to mentor cadets, and serves on the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Advisory Committee. In May of 2017, she joined the Board of Directors at the Texas Advocacy Project, an organization that provides legal representation and advocacy for victims of domestic abuse.
“Major Hegar was everything we could have hoped for and more. Engaging, professional, knowledgeable ... [she] maintained the perfect balance between seriousness and humor throughout her address.”University of Maryland School of Law
“You kept us all riveted with your story and storytelling skills, taking us from racing hearts to laughing and crying”Toastmasters Conference
“Your confidence, competence, planning, preparation and professionalism were all on display as you engaged our audience with ‘edge-of-the-seat’ stories sprinkled with your own unique ‘MJ brand’ of humor.”Metropolitan Breakfast Club Meeting
How will you react when you are tested? When Major MJ Hegar’s helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan, she discovered what it truly is to perform under pressure. Injured and without backup, she was pivotal in rescuing her crew and patients and became the second woman in history to earn a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device. She was also awarded a Purple Heart. In this talk—appropriate for a wide variety of audiences, from corporate to college to military—she delivers valuable lessons for not only keeping a cool head in a tense situation, but performing with distinction. The difference between those of us who react well under pressure and those who don’t, she says, comes down to a few important principles. Who do you hope to be when all eyes turn to you?