In 2003, Tammy Duckworth was working on a project for Rotary International to provide wheelchairs for the disabled in developing countries including Iraq. As a Captain in the National Guard, she was mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployed in 2004.
As a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, she was one of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq until November 12th, 2004 when her helicopter was hit by an RPG. Tammy lost both legs and part of the use of her right arm in the explosion, and was awarded the Purple Heart for her combat injuries.
During her recovery at Walter Reed, Tammy was one of the highest-ranking amputees and became an advocate for her fellow soldiers. Her leadership was recognized when she was asked to testify before Congress and recruited to run for the House of Representatives. After losing a close race, Tammy continued to serve as a Major in the National Guard and became Director of Illinois' Department of Veterans' Affairs. There, she implemented many first in the nation programs to address Post Traumatic Stress, improve traumatic brain injury screening and reduce homelessness among Vets.
In 2009, Tammy was tapped by President Obama to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs where she sought to improve the standard of care for Vets. She oversaw VA's effort to end Veteran homelessness and lead initiatives for female Vets and increased accessibility and accountability with the new Office of Online Communications.
Military service is a Duckworth tradition - a family member has served during every period of conflict since the Revolution. Tammy followed suit by joining the Reserves in graduate school and chose to fly helicopters because it was one of the few combat jobs open to women.
Tammy is a graduate of the University of Hawaii and received a Masters of Arts in International Affairs from the George Washington University. She and her husband Bryan, an Army Major, live in Hoffman Estates where their home was rebuilt for wheelchair access in 2005 by her fellow Soldiers and friends. Despite her injuries, she declined a military medical retirement and continues to drill as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard.
Tammy Duckworth is a member of the Army National Guard. Use of her military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.