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Pentagon Policy Change Means Women Could Be On The Front Lines
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's decision may help halt a federal lawsuit filed by the national chapter of the ACLU. Four service women - including one from Central Texas - are suing the Pentagon, challenging its combat restriction.
She fights for what she wants. "I've always wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember," said Major Mary Hegar.
And those childhood dreams have quickly turned into a real life drama. "We engaged enemy for about 20 minutes, I was wounded," said Hegar.
The retired National Guard pilot is on the front lines of change. "Lifting this ban sends a message, it says were not going to treat people differently anymore. We're going to treat people based on their capabilities," said Hegar.
Hegar is in the national spotlight, waging a war on behalf of women in combat.
The tide is changing, with a groundbreaking decision that overturns a 1994 Pentagon rule that restricts women from serving in combat roles.
"It's a very big step, an important step but there's a lot of work to be done," added Hegar.
The battle may be over, but the war wages on. Hegar is one of four service women who recently filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon, challenging its combat restriction for women. It's a job, Hegar maintains, military women routinely handle.
She should know. "Women can't handle the emotional toll. Once bullets start flying they're going to pee their pants, I've heard it all. Well, bullets were certainly flying into my arm and I was maintaining my composure," said Hegar.
And it's that composure that keeps this Major from caving in on her principles.
The ACLU released a statement saying:
"We are thrilled to hear Secretary Panetta's announcement today recognizing that qualified women will have the same chance to distinguish themselves in combat as their brothers-in-arms, which they actually already have been doing with valor and distinction," said Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project. "But we welcome this statement with cautious optimism, as we hope that it will be implemented fairly and quickly so that service women can receive the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts."
By Alex Boyer