When Amy McGrath, now a candidate for Congress, was 10 years old, she decided that when she grew up, she wanted to be a naval aviator and land on aircraft carriers. The one problem: At the time, a law prohibited women from flying fighter jets in combat missions. So McGrath wrote letters to her legislators on the armed services committees.
While her representative responded with a “fairly condescending” note that basically said, “You’re a girl, and Congress doesn’t believe that women should be doing these things,” she soon found an advocate in former Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., with whom the young McGrath became transfixed after watching her on C-SPAN.
As McGrath recalled in a video at the 2018 MAKERS Conference, Schroeder, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1973 to 1997, wrote, “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.”
That she did. In 1993, the combat exclusion policy was lifted — and in 2002, while deployed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, McGrath became the first female Marine ever to fly an F-18 during a military conflict.
She credits Schroeder, now 77, as being partially responsible for helping her achieve her childhood ambitions. And on Tuesday, at the three-day conference of the feminist media brand — the pair met for the first time.
Completely shocked by the encounter, which was a surprise, McGrath exclaimed, “Oh my god” and “Holy s***” multiple times upon meeting her childhood champion.
So why did Schroeder respond to McGrath’s letter in the first place? “Well, I felt it was terribly important to do that, especially for young women. Because there really were no role models. I thought about when I grew up, what were my role models? Cinderella? No. I didn’t fit that,” Schroeder revealed in an interview with Tim Armstrong, CEO of Oath. (Full disclosure: Yahoo Lifestyle is a subsidiary of Oath, which also owns MAKERS.)
While Schroeder served as a hero of sorts to McGrath, the former Marine is hoping to be an exemplar for a new generation of young people. Which is why, after serving in the armed forces for years, the retired lieutenant colonel is now running for Congress as a Democrat in Kentucky.
“I feel like I’ve been blessed, and I have to give back. I have to earn it,” McGrath said about wanting to continue to serve, albeit in a different capacity. “We need people that want to be public servants again and do these sort of things.”
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