KY-06: Amy McGrath (D)
Amy McGrath was born the youngest of three children to Donald (a high school English teacher) and Marianne McGrath (a medical doctor and one of the first women to graduate from the University of Kentucky medical school in the 1960s). By age 12, Amy had fallen in love with military fighter jets. Wondering why there were no women flying, Amy discovered there was a federal law in the U.S. prohibiting women from serving in combat roles.
Soon, Amy began writing to members of Congress and published letters to the editor in her hometown newspapers advocating for change to remove the restriction on women. After her own congressional delegation failed to respond in a satisfactory way (Amy never received a reply from U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell), she then wrote every member of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Many wrote her back, including Rep. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, who said “The object of a war is to win. We should, therefore, field the best-qualified military possible…I think that it is time for military service to be based on qualifications, not gender.”
During her senior year at Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, where Amy played three varsity sports, the combat exclusion law was lifted, following the election of President Bill Clinton, and she was accepted into the United States Naval Academy as part of the Class of 1997. She played varsity soccer for Navy all four years, graduated with a B.S. in Political Science, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. After Marine Corps Officer Basic School, Amy completed flight school in July 1999 and reported to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, CA as an F/A-18D Hornet Weapons Systems Officer.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Amy spent four hours strapped into an F/A-18 loaded with air-to-air missiles. She was on alert status with all aircraft systems operational next to the Miramar runway, awaiting orders to launch and potentially shoot down any commercial airliner believed headed for a terrorist attack on Los Angeles or San Diego. Shortly thereafter, then Captain McGrath, call sign “Krusty”, deployed to Kyrgyzstan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) where she flew combat missions in Afghanistan. In 2003, she completed her second combat tour with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121 “Green Knights” to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). That same year, she was certified as an Air Combat Tactics Instructor.
From 2005-06, Amy transitioned to become an F/A-18 pilot. In her second tour with Green Knights, she completed a deployment to East Asia. In 2009, Amy married U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Erik Henderson of Hagerstown, Maryland and shortly thereafter, they were both deployed to Afghanistan (Erik to Kabul and Amy to Helmand Province with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing). While operational, she flew approximately 2,000 flight hours (350 combat flight hours), and flew 89 combat missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq, bombing Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. She has also flown in multiple exercises in the continental U.S., Alaska, Egypt, Australia, Korea and Japan.
In 2011, Amy was assigned to Washington D.C. as Marine Corps Congressional Fellow, serving as defense and foreign affairs policy advisor to Rep. Susan Davis of San Diego. Following her time on Capitol Hill, she served in the Pentagon as the Marine Corps’ liaison to other federal government agencies such as the Department of State and USAID. In 2014, having reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, she was assigned to the faculty at US Naval Academy where she served as a senior political science instructor until her 20-year retirement from the Marines Corps on June 1, 2017.
Amy holds an M.A. in International/Global Security from The Johns Hopkins University and a Graduate Certificate in Legislative Studies from Georgetown University. She is also a graduate of the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction’s Program for Emerging Leaders at the National Defense University, Marine Amphibious Warfare School, Marine Fighter Weapons Division Tactics Course, and Marine Corps Command and Staff College. Amy’s awards include two Meritorious Service Medals, eight Strike Flight Air Medals, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, two Afghan and one Iraq Campaign medals.
Amy and Erik have three children, Theodore (6), George (4), and Eleanor (2), and live in Georgetown, Kentucky.
The biographical information above was sourced from the campaign website; see link above for more information.
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