Female Navy vet, other women, take on politics

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., leaves in a T-6 World War II airplane after speaking at a rally in Phoenix. Women with military experience are among the record number of female candidates running for office this year. (Matt York/AP) WASHINGTON — A dragon winds around a cherry tree in the tattoo across MJ Hegar ’s arm and back, over the shrapnel wounds she had, at one point, not wanted to see with her young children around.

But nine years after being shot down in Afghanistan, then winning a lawsuit against the federal government, writing a book and now running for a Texas congressional seat, Hegar isn’t hiding much anymore.

"I carry my service with me wherever I go," Hegar said in a telephone interview near her home in Round Rock, outside Austin. "We don’t see my family and my childhood and my service as different chapters. It’s all a package deal."

Hegar is part of a crop of female veterans running for Congress in this year’s midterm elections. Almost all Democrats and many of them mothers, they are shaped by the Sept. 11 attacks and overseas wars, including the longest war in American history. Many are retiring from the military and looking for another way to serve the country.

They’re part of a record number of women running for seats in Congress, but in certain ways, they are a class apart.

The female veterans claim expertise in national security and veterans issues, with a track record of thriving in institutions dominated by men. Regardless of party, they cast themselves as the antidote to bitterly partisan politics — describing themselves as "mission-driven" and trained by the military to work toward a common goal.

“I flew 89 combat missions as a U.S. Marine. My 90th mission is running for Congress to take on politicians who put party over country,” said Kentucky Democratic candidate Amy McGrath , the first female Marine to fly an F/A-18 in combat. Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democratic nominee for a House seat in West Texas, is an Air Force veteran vying against Republican Rep. Will Hurd. Currently, only four of 535 lawmakers are both women and veterans. Women with military experience _ many of them combat veterans _ are among the record number of female candidates running for office this year. (Eric Gay/AP) The increase in candidates with military experience is no accident, and the hopefuls are expected to be propelled by Democratic luminaries. Former Vice President Joe Biden, for example, is expected to campaign for McGrath, among others, according to officials close to them who spoke on condition of anonymity because the schedule is not set.

Two Democrats — Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a retired Marine Corps captain and Bronze Star recipient, and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost her legs and partial use of an arm when her helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq — have been instrumental in recruiting veterans to run for office.

Moulton said female veterans in his party carry a particular authority when talking to […]

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