Memorial Day Weekend Profile: Major Tammy Duckworth

This post is the second of a three part series on awesome Asian veterans, written in commemoration of Memorial Day.


Tammy Duckworth joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Guard in 1990 while a graduate student in George Washington University, following in the footsteps of her father, who served in the military from World War II to Vietnam. In 1992, Duckworth joined the United States Army Reserve and trained to be a combat helicopter pilot, because it was one of the few combat jobs open to women. In 2004, Duckworth was serving with the Illinois National Guard in Iraq when the helicopter she was co-piloting was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade. Though Duckworth survived the subsequent explosion, she lost the lower parts of both legs.

Why She’s Awesome?

Returning to America, Duckworth received a Purple Heart, an Air Medal and an Army Commendation Medal. Following her experiences in Iraq, Duckworth also formed the Intrepid Foundation, which supports and advocates on behalf of injured veterans. Indeed, since returning from Iraq, Duckworth spent much of her time working to improve veteran care, speaking openly in criticism of the Bush Administration’s mishandling of this issue.

In 2006, Duckworth ran for, and won, the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 6th Congressional seat, despite having never before held an elected office. Unfortunately, later that year, Duckworth lost the seat to Republican challenger, Peter Roskam, by only 2% of the vote.

After losing the election in November 2006, Duckworth was appointed Director of Illinois’ Veteran Affairs, and in 2009, President Obama nominated Duckworth to the position of Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veteran Affairs, a position she currently serves in the Obama Administration.

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