Amy McGrath, Former U.S. Marine, Congressional Candidate in Kentucky
When Amy McGrath was a girl, a congressman told her that women shouldn’t be in combat. Fast-forward 200 flight hours and 89 missions later and McGrath has helped change the perception of women serving in the military. Now she’s bringing that fighting spirit to the voting booth and running for Kentucky's 6th congressional district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
AMY MCGRATH: A lot of times you're going as a fighter pilot, you go up in the air and you're waiting for something to happen. The other times, it can be quite scary. Flying a fighter jet is the most intense job you can do on the planet.
I grew up in Kentucky. Youngest of three children. My mother was a medical doctor, and that was very rare. This was the 1980s. And I was always very proud of her. So when she wasn't there at night because she was on call, I would just say, well, mom's saving lives.
I was very much a tomboy who just wanted to play sports. I have an older brother who would be one of the captains, and he would always pick me first. And all of his friends would say, why are you picking a girl? And he would say, well, she's the best player. I knew that if I was beating all the boys in football or basketball, that there was nothing I couldn't do.
He wrote me back a very nice letter that was fairly condescending, which basically said, you're a girl, and Congress doesn't believe that women should be doing these things. And I said, well, so what? You know, they just haven't met me yet. I can do this.
So I wasn't deterred. Pat Schroeder was a Congresswoman at the time. She was considered so radical. And what she said was, the military of our nation exists to fight and win the nation's wars. And we should have the best people in those positions. Stick to your dreams. I'm working on it.
The executive officer comes in and looks at me and looks around the room and says, we've got to put you in a jet. And I had just barely gotten my qualification. So we suited up, pulled out into the runway with six air-to-air missiles loaded up to possibly launch and shoot down an airliner. Thank god we didn't have to shoot anyone down.
I think that 9/11 changed the mindset of all of us. It was on. This is what we had trained for. We were going to go into combat. Our job was necessary, and I was prepared.
The Marine Corps was the toughest thing a woman could do in the military. And that is exactly what I wanted. I remember going into Afghanistan and looking out at the men who were working and having them look at me-- and the wonder in their eyes. And they had never seen a woman who was treated with the same type of respect as all the other Marines, a woman as an equal. When you go to these other countries, especially as a woman, and you're just doing your job, that's showing people American values. That's changing minds.
My commanding officer pulled me in and told me, and my heart just stopped. I thought to myself, all right. I worked my whole life to do this. Flying, itself, is dangerous. You have to make sometimes life and death decisions when it comes to ordnance. When you can come through with putting the bombs on target on time, that's when you know your training and your work mattered.
Now we have all of these former military women running for Congress. Well, it's about time. We see what's happening in our government. We basically say, I fought for my country, and I am a woman, and I'm not going to stand for that. Is it going to be easy? No, it's going to be a challenge. And I love that. I mean, that's me. That's what Marines do. I don't want to be there just to fill a seat. I want to make a difference.