Joined by a cheering crowd of friends and supporters, Mary Jennings Hegar, the decorated Afghanistan war hero and author, officially kicked off her campaign Saturday for the District 31 congressional seat currently held by a longtime incumbent.
Hegar, an Air Force major and a helicopter pilot, was wounded and shot down while flying a rescue mission in Afghanistan. She used a rifle to protect her patients and crew from the Taliban and then kept firing from the skids of the helicopter that rescued her until her crew and patients were safe.
"She thrived in a male dominated world," longtime friend Conley Giles told the crowd of supporters and friends at the Old Coupland Dance Hall Saturday.
Hegar is seeking the Democratic nomination in the March 6, 2018 Democratic primary for the chance to face the incumbent 75-year-old John Rice Carter, a Republican, in next year's general election.
Also seeking the nomination are former U.S. Army officer and former educator Kent Lester of Cedar Park and Mike Clark, a Georgetown geospatial engineer who lost to Carter in 2016.
Hegar said Carter, who has been in office seven terms and serves as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee of the House Appropriations Committee "likes to say he helped save our nation."
"What saved our nation," Hegar told the crowd, "are the millions of men and women in uniform. And now our veterans are not being taken care of. We have to do more to help them."
After returning from Afghanistan, Hegar sued the Pentagon in an effort to get rules changed so women could perform combat roles. The Pentagon backed down and she won her suit for women in combat, which led her to write a recently released book, "Shoot like a Girl."
"I did a lot of good in D.C. fighting for women in combat," Hegar said. "But there is more to be done. We can't just throw insults at people who disagree with us. We need to send people to Washington who have change management skills."
Hegar said she will work to protect families, preserve freedom and defend our nation.
"We must end divisive policies that isolate us from the world with no consideration for our history of religious freedom, welcoming immigrants, supporting our allies, and fulfilling our promises,” Hegar said. “That poses a threat to the very ideals upon which our country and our Constitution were founded."
A graduate of Leander High School and the University of Texas, Hegar lives in Round Rock with her husband, Brandon, and her two young sons, Jude, 3, and Daniel, 6 months.
"I am so honored and humbled anytime someone says they are going to vote for me," Hegar said. "I will work for all of the citizens. I have always fought for those who are being marginalized."