Wednesday, April 4, 2012

SPRS Shout Out - Major Tammy Duckworth

April is Asian American History Month. There are so many stories of amazing Asian American women I'd like to share this month, and the first is the very brave, inspirational, and amazing soldier and public servant.

She was born in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1968. Her father's job working for the United Nations took the family around the world while she was growing up. They finally settled in Hawaii, and she attended the University of Hawaii, where she received a BA in political science. Honoring her father's long military career from World War II to the Vietnam War, she proudly joined the ROTC in graduate school at George Washington University, where she was studying international affairs. In 1992, she became a commissioned officer in the US Army Reserve and chose one of the few combat jobs open to women -- flying helicopters. She attended flight school, and joined the Illinois National Guard in 1996.

In 2004, while studying for a Ph.D. in political science with a focus on political economy and public health in southeast Asian at Northern Illinois University, she was deployed to Iraq. On November 12, 2004, the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. She fought to land the helicopter as safely as possible, which she did. But the explosion changed her life forever. Her injuries were substantial. She lost the lower part of bother her legs, and her right arm was nearly destroyed, having been broken in three places and losing most of the tissue from the back. She was awarded the Purple Heart, and was presented with t an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal.

She credits her pilot, Dan Milberg for saving her life, and she strives to live every day to the fullness of its possibilities. “I get up every day and say thank you to my crew for saving my life... I was missing two limbs, and my arm was essentially severed. I was a bloody, pulpy person with one limb to hang onto… He knew I was dead but he wasn’t going to leave me behind. I have to be worthy of that effort.”

Duckworth narrates the Salute to Fallen Asian Pacific
Islander Heroes
in Arlington, Virginia, June 2, 2005.

On returning home, she did not waste any time becoming active in politics and veterans affairs. She is one of the founders of the Intrepid Foundation, which works to helps rehabilitate injured soldiers.

Inspired by Former Senator Bob Dole during her stay at Walter Reed Medical Center, she began to pursue a career in public service. In fact, he dedicated his biography One Soldier's Story in part to her for her continued bravery.
My experience in Iraq made me realize, and during the recovery, that I could have died. And I just had to do more with my life.
In 2006, she was appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, where she worked to develop programs to encourage employers to hire veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other programs to assist veterans returning to civilian life. Also in 2006, she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois' 6th Congressional District, but lost to her opponent, Peter Roskam.

Taking the oath-of-office as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental
Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs,
with her husband Bryan Bowlsbey standing beside her.

In 2009, she was nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and was confirmed her for the position by the US Senate.
"It's about change on so many levels. If being a woman underscores that, makes it clear that I'm going to be an effective agent of change, that's great."
Preparing for the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride at the White House.
She remains quite active in the political sphere and in her efforts of activism. In 2011, she resigned her position of Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in order to launch her campaign for the newly-reorganized Illinois' 8th Congressional District.

Whether you agree with her politics or not, she is an amazing woman and deserves to be recognized as  the Self-Rescuing Princess she so clearly is!


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