Female Helicopter Pilot Took on the Taliban—and the Pentagon

National Geographic by Simon Worrall

After receiving the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross, Maj. Mary Jennings Hegar fought for the right to fight.

When National Geographic caught up with Hegar by phone at her home in Austin, Texas, the Purple Heart recipient explained why she sued the Pentagon, how she would never have become a pilot if her mother had not left an abusive husband, and how, in 2009, in Afghanistan, everything she had prepared for came together when her chopper was hit by the Taliban.

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