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Maj. Hegar was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with a Valor Device, two of the highest decorations for a pilot.

Maj. Hegar said her lawsuit is not intended to dictate to the services how they should operate but encourage the Defense Department to lift restrictions on military commanders who have “found themselves in the difficult position of needing to use highly talented and qualified women in combat and not being able to.”

ACLU senior staff lawyer Ariela Migdal said Capt. Bedell went on missions with infantrymen and regularly encountered combat in Afghanistan.

But since her team was designated as “temporary,” Capt. Bedell and other female Marines had to return to the main forward operating base every 45 days, which took them away from missions for up to a week.

The lawsuit cites discrimination in the combat-exclusion policy, noting that women do not receive official recognition for having served in combat because they can only be “attached,” not “assigned,” to combat units.

“Women are barred from more than 238,000 positions across the armed forces, including all infantry positions, and from certain military occupational specialties and training schools,” the lawsuit states.

The ACLU’s Ms. Migdal said Tuesday that “servicewomen who have been spending the last 10 years trying to accomplish missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are coming back and seeing there really is a brass ceiling.”