Tammy Duckworth is an Asian-American war veteran and politician. She is the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She also became the first Asian-American congresswoman for Illinois and is the first member of Congress born in Thailand. Her father worked for United Nations and traveled frequently which meant that her childhood was spent in several countries across Southeast Asia. After completing her graduation, she joined the military training and went on to become a combat pilot. In 2004, she was deployed to serve in the Iraq War, a mission which turned into a nightmare when she lost both of her legs after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the lower half of her body. While recovering physically and mentally from the incident, she transformed into an activist. Subsequently, she went on to become the director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs and advocated better health care facilities for war veterans. Later, when President Barack Obama appointed her as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, she emphasized on the needs of homeless and female veterans. After serving on the post for a few years, she contested for a seat in Congress, as a Democrat representing Illinois and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite the mishaps which happened in her life, she continues to demonstrate amazing willpower and inspire everyone with her unbelievable strength.
Childhood & Early Life
Tammy Duckworth was born on March 12, 1968, in Bangkok, Thailand, to Franklin Duckworth, and his wife, Lamai Sompornpairin. She has a younger brother, Tommy.
Her father used to work for United Nations and as a result, her childhood was spent at various places such as, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Cambodia. Subsequently, she attained fluency in Thai and Indonesian languages, in addition to English.
When she was 16, her family moved to Hawaii where she initially studied at the Singapore American School, and then went to the International School Bangkok.
In 1985, she completed high school from McKinley High School and then attended the University of Hawaii from where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1989.
In 1990, she joined the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps at the George Washington University in Washington D.C.
In 1992, she became a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve.
She also completed her post-graduation with a Master of Arts in international affairs from the George Washington University.
Being a member of the Army Reserve, she attended the flight school and later got transferred to the Army National Guard. In 1996, she entered the Illinois Army National Guard.
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In 2004, while pursuing a PhD at the Northern Illinois University, Tammy Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a combat pilot. During one of her flying combat missions, she lost her right leg near the hip and her left leg below the knee from injuries sustained when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents.
While recovering from her injuries and trauma, she became an activist, advocating better medical care for wounded war veterans and their families.
She worked as a staff supervisor at Rotary International headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. Her activism motivated her to pursue a career in politics and in 2006 she ran for a Congress seat but lost by a narrow margin.
Subsequently, she became the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs, and served in this position till 2009.
In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed her as the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.
In June 2011, she resigned from the post to launch her campaign to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois' 8th Congressional District.
In November 2012, she won the elections against the incumbent Joe Walsh and became a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois's 8th district.
She became the first disabled female veteran to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She also became the first Asian-American woman elected to Congress in Illinois and the first member of Congress born in Thailand.
In October 2014, she retired from the Illinois Army National Guard as a lieutenant colonel. In the 2014 general elections, she was re-elected to Congress from Illinois's 8th district.
While working for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Tammy Duckworth initiated programs that would provide veterans and their families with better mental support, health care and housing resources. She also focused largely on putting a stop to the cycle of homeless veterans and developed resources especially tailored to the unique needs of female veterans.
She helped in the establishment of the ‘Intrepid Foundation’ and is currently involved in raising funds for the organization in order to build a well-equipped rehabilitation center for injured veterans.
Awards & Achievements
In December 2004, Tammy Duckworth received the Purple Heart, a United States military decoration. The same year, she was also honored with an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal.
In 2007, she was presented with the ‘Veterans Leadership Award’ by the non-profit group ‘Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’, in recognition of her dedication to the nation's newest generation of veterans.
Personal Life & Legacy
In June 1994, Tammy Duckworth married Major Bryan Bowlsbey, also an Iraq War veteran, whom she first met during her training at the United States Army Reserve in 1992.