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Tammy Duckworth

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Tammy Duckworth
Tammy Duckworth, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 8th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Joe Walsh
Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs
In office
April 24, 2009 – June 30, 2011
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Lisette Mondello
Succeeded by Michael Galloucis
Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs
In office
November 21, 2006 – February 8, 2009
Governor Rod Blagojevich
Pat Quinn
Preceded by Roy Dolgos
Succeeded by Daniel Grant
Personal details
Born Ladda Tammy Duckworth
(1968-03-12) March 12, 1968 (age 47)
Bangkok, Thailand
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Bryan Bowlsbey
Alma mater University of Hawaii, Manoa
George Washington University
Northern Illinois University
Capella University
Awards Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart
Meritorious Service ribbon.svg Meritorious Service Medal
RibbonAirMedal.PNG Air Medal
Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Army Commendation Medal with Oak leaf cluster
Army Reserve Achievement ribbon.svg Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with four Oak leaf clusters
Combat Action Badge.svg Combat Action Badge
Senior Army Aviator Badge.png Senior Army Aviator Badge
Website Government website
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Illinois Army National Guard
Years of service 1992–2014
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 28th Infantry Division DUI.png 106th Aviation Regiment, 28th Infantry Division
Battles/wars Iraq War (WIA)

Ladda Tammy Duckworth (born March 12, 1968) is an American politician who has been the U.S. Representative for Illinois's 8th congressional district since 2013. A Democrat, she is the first Asian American woman elected to Congress in Illinois, the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first member of Congress born in Thailand.

Duckworth previously served as Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs from April 24, 2009 to June 30, 2011, and as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from November 21, 2006 to February 8, 2009.

An Iraq War veteran, Duckworth served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot and suffered severe combat wounds, losing both of her legs and damaging her right arm. She was the first female double amputee from the war.[1] Having received a medical waiver, she continued to serve as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard along with her husband, Major Bryan W. Bowlsbey, a signal officer and fellow Iraq War veteran.[2] Duckworth retired from the army in October 2014, and was reelected to Congress in November.

Duckworth is running for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Early life, education, and military service[edit]

Tammy Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand, to Frank and Lamai Duckworth. Her American father, Franklin, who died in 2005,[3] was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who traced his family's roots in the Americas back to before the Revolutionary War. Her mother, Lamai, who is Thai, has Chinese ancestry.[4] Because of her father's work with the United Nations and international companies, the family moved around Southeast Asia. Duckworth became fluent in Thai and Indonesian, in addition to English.[5]

The family settled in Hawaii when she was sixteen. Duckworth attended Singapore American School, and for a few months in her senior year was at the International School Bangkok. She graduated with honors from McKinley High School in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1985, after skipping the ninth grade. She graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, and received a Master of Arts in international affairs from George Washington University.[6]

Following in the footsteps of her father and ancestors, who served in the Revolutionary War, World War II, and the Vietnam War,[4] Duckworth joined the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps as a graduate student at George Washington University in 1990. She became a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve in 1992 and chose to fly helicopters because it was one of the few combat jobs open to women. As a member of the Army Reserve, she went to flight school, later transferring to the Army National Guard and entering the Illinois Army National Guard in 1996.[7]

Duckworth was working towards a Ph.D. in political science at Northern Illinois University, with research interests in the political economy and public health in southeast Asia, when she was deployed to Iraq in 2004.[8] She lost her right leg near the hip and her left leg below the knee[9] from injuries sustained on November 12, 2004, when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents.[10] She is the first female double amputee from the Iraq war.[1] The explosion "almost completely destroyed her right arm, breaking it in three places and tearing tissue from the back side of it."[11] The doctors "reset the bones in her arm and stitched the cuts" to save her arm.[11] Duckworth received a Purple Heart on December 3 and was promoted to Major on December 21 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she was presented with an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal.[10]

Duckworth worked as a staff supervisor at Rotary International headquarters in Evanston, Illinois.[8][12][dead link]

She retired from the Illinois Army National Guard in October 2014 as a lieutenant colonel.[13]

She returned to school and completed a PhD in Human Services at Capella University in March 2015.[14]

Post-military career[edit]

Duckworth was fitted for prosthetics and is now fully mobile. She helped establish the Intrepid Foundation to help injured veterans.[15]

Government service[edit]

Duckworth being sworn in as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, by Judge John J. Farley with her husband Bryan Bowlsbey beside her.

Duckworth was appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs by Governor Rod Blagojevich[16][17][18] from November 21, 2006 to February 8, 2009. She was honored by Chicago's Access Living for "her extraordinary commitment to veterans with disabilities".[19][dead link]

On September 17, 2008, Duckworth attended a campaign event for Dan Seals, the Democratic candidate for Illinois's 10th congressional district. Duckworth used vacation time to avoid any appearance of impropriety, but violated Illinois law by going to the event in a state-owned van which was equipped for a person with physical disabilities. She acknowledged the mistake and repaid the state for the use of the van.[20][21]

In 2009, two Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs employees at the Anna Veteran’s Home in Union County filed a lawsuit against Duckworth, stating that she caused them emotional distress and violated state ethics laws.[22] The lawsuit, which was filed in 2009, alleges that Duckworth wrongfully terminated one employee and threatened and intimidated another for bringing reports of abuse and misconduct of veterans when she was head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.[23] The lawsuit is scheduled to go on trial April 4, 2016, where Duckworth will be represented by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.[22][23]

On February 3, 2009, Duckworth was nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.[24] The United States Senate confirmed her for the position on April 22.[25] Duckworth resigned from her position in June 2011 in order to launch her campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois' 8th Congressional District.[26]


Former Republican Presidential candidate and Senator Bob Dole dedicated his biography One Soldier's Story in part to Duckworth.[27] Duckworth credits Dole for inspiring her to pursue public service while she recuperated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center although, in 2006, Dole endorsed Duckworth's Republican opponent, Peter Roskam.[28]

Duckworth won the 2007 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Veterans Leadership Award.[29][better source needed] In May 2010, Duckworth was awarded an honorary doctorate by Northern Illinois University.[30][dead link]

Duckworth was a speaker on the third night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention,[31][not in citation given] and on the first night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.[32][33]

On June 26, 2013, during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Duckworth received national media attention after questioning Strong Castle CEO Braulio Castillo on a $500 million government contract the company had been awarded based on Castillo's disabled veteran status.[34][35][36][37]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



After long-time incumbent Republican Henry Hyde announced his retirement from Congress, several candidates began campaigning for the office. Duckworth won the Democratic primary with a plurality of 44%, defeating 2004 nominee Christine Cegelis with 40%, and Wheaton College professor Lindy Scott with 16%. In the Republican primary, Illinois Senator Peter Roskam ran unopposed. While she raised over $1 million more than Roskam, on November 7 Duckworth lost by 4,810 votes, receiving 49% to Roskam's 51%.[38]


In July 2011, Duckworth launched her campaign to run in 2012 for Illinois's 8th congressional district. Duckworth defeated former Deputy Treasurer of Illinois Raja Krishnamoorthi for the Democratic nomination on March 20, 2012, then faced incumbent Republican Joe Walsh in the general election.[39] Duckworth received the endorsement of both the Chicago Tribune and the Daily Herald.[40][41] Walsh generated controversy when in July 2012, at a campaign event, he accused Duckworth of politicizing her military service and injuries, saying "my God, that's all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it's the last thing in the world they talk about." Walsh called the controversy over his comments "a political ploy to distort my words and distract voters" and said that "Of course Tammy Duckworth is a hero...I have called her a hero hundreds of times." [42]

On November 6, 2012, Duckworth defeated Walsh 55%–45%.[43] She is the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first member of Congress born in Thailand.[44]


In the 2014 general election, Duckworth faced Republican Larry Kaifesh, a United States Marine Corps officer who had recently left active duty as a colonel.[45] Duckworth defeated Kaifesh with 56% of the vote.[46]


Duckworth was sworn into office on January 3, 2013.[47]

On April 3, 2013, Duckworth publicly returned 8.4% of her congressional salary for that month to the United States Department of Treasury in solidarity with furloughed government workers. The $1,218 check represented 8.4% of her monthly pay.[48]

Committee assignments[edit]

2016 U.S. Senate campaign[edit]

On March 30, 2015, Duckworth announced that she would challenge incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Kirk for his seat in the 2016 Senate election in Illinois.[49] Duckworth will face fellow Democrats Andrea Zopp and Napoleon Harris in the primary election on March 15, 2016.[50]

Political positions[edit]

Duckworth speaks during the third night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Veteran affairs[edit]

At the AmVets' National Symposium for the Needs of Young Veterans in 2012, Duckworth called for improvements in veterans health care. She called for mandatory funding of veterans' health care, rather than discretionary funding that could change with political winds; she also wants improvements in transition assistance for those returning to civilian life, particularly for those with disabilities. Duckworth also wanted the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire more veterans as doctors and nurses because they understand what combat veterans face, and she wants the VA to prepare for the possibility of severe respiratory problems in the future for Iraq war veterans.[51][dead link]


According to The Washington Post, Duckworth believes that abortion and end-of-life decisions are private matters and should not be subject to federal restriction.[52] During her 2006 campaign for U.S. Congress, Duckworth was endorsed by EMILY's List.[53]


On August 23, 2006, Duckworth was endorsed by the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers. In accepting the endorsements, Duckworth criticized the Bush administration's education policy of No Child Left Behind Act.[54]

Iraq War[edit]

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

Duckworth was critical of the administration of President George W. Bush for its provision of veterans' care, and was chosen by the Democratic Party to give the September 30, 2006, response to President Bush's weekly radio address.[55][56] Her strategic recommendations included requesting an immediate accounting by the U.S. Secretary of Defense of the readiness level and the training of the Iraqi forces, followed by aggressive benchmarks for progress and redeployment of U.S. troops linked to the stand-up of Iraqi troops, saying the U.S. should proceed by standing-down a defined number of U.S. units for every Iraqi battalion that can be properly trained and certified as combat-ready.[57][non-primary source needed]

In 2006, The Sunday Times reported that Duckworth agreed with General Sir Richard Dannatt, the British Army chief, that the presence of coalition troops was exacerbating the conflict:

"We're attracting more people to terrorism than ever before. We really need to think about drawing down," she told The Sunday Times. "I want the Secretary of Defense to come before Congress and tell us how many Iraqis are fully trained. If two guys can do traffic control in Kirkuk, I want to bring two Americans home."[58]

Defense spending[edit]

In August 2006, Duckworth called on Congress to audit the estimated $437 billion spent on overseas military and foreign aid since September 11, 2001. She said, "Real and meaningful oversight has taken a back seat to partisan inaction. With the right kind of leadership Congress can bring greater fiscal discipline and accountability to the billions of dollars we are spending on our military efforts."[59]

Gun control[edit]

On October 10, 2006, Duckworth was endorsed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The endorsement was announced in a joint appearance with the Fraternal Order of Police, who had also endorsed Duckworth. At the press conference in Lombard, Illinois, Duckworth referred to the recent school shootings and criticized her opponent's opposition to renewing a Federal ban on semi-automatic firearms, which expired in 2004. Duckworth claimed, "Basically, whatever the NRA wants, Peter Roskam will vote for it." She supported the Brady Law, which requires background checks for gun purchases from federally licensed firearm dealers.[60][61]

Electoral history[edit]

Election results
Year Office District Election Votes for Duckworth % Opponent Party Votes %
2006 U.S. House 6th General 86,572 48% Peter Roskam Republican 91,382 51%
2012 8th Primary 17,097 66% Raja Krishnamoorthi Democratic 8,736 33%
General 123,206 54% Joe Walsh Republican 101,860 45%
2014 8th General 84,178 55.7% Lawrence Kaifesh Republican 66,878 44.3%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b O'Toole, Molly (May 14, 2012). "Unseen: Trailblazing Military Women Forced To Fight For Recognition, Equal Treatment". Huffington Post. 
  2. ^ Brown, Mark (February 14, 2007). "Duckworth's husband Iraq-bound". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  3. ^ O'Connor, Philip. "Downed Pilot Finally Hears Uplifting Words She Awaited." St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 27, 2005. Article available at Arlington Cemetery website page for Franklin G. Duckworth. [1]
  4. ^ a b Adam Weinstein (September–October 2012). "Nobody Puts Tammy Duckworth in a Corner". Mother Jones (magazine). Retrieved January 4, 2012. 
  5. ^ Slevin, Peter. "After War Injury, an Iraq Vet Takes on Politics". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  6. ^ Will Hoover (January 15, 2006). "Duckworth working to win". Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii). 
  7. ^ Haskall, Bob (January 6, 2005). "U.S. Army National Guard Maj. Tammy Duckworth: Illinois Guard officer faces adversity with courage, concern for troops". Defend America. Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  8. ^ a b "Iraq Vet's New Fight is for Congress". CBS News. Archived from the original on February 23, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  9. ^ Honolulu Advertiser, Can-do spirit rises from crash March 17, 2005; accessed August 22, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "The pedals were gone, and so were my legs", June 14, 2005, Stars and Stripes.
  11. ^ a b Camire, Dennis (March 18, 2005). "Franklin G. Duckworth, Captain, United States Army". Unofficial Arlington National Cemetery Website. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  12. ^ "Illinois lieutenant governor honors Rotary Centennial and RI employee". Rotary International. Retrieved 2007-07-10. 
  13. ^ "Duckworth Retires". Public Affairs Office, Illinois National Guard. Retrieved October 15, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Countdown to commencement". 
  15. ^ Haglund, Alex (June 27, 2011). "Duckworth, Pitcher honored along with all women veterans in Mt. Vernon". Advocate-Press. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  16. ^ "Director L. Tammy Duckworth: Committed to Serving Country and Community". Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. 
  17. ^ Dvahome
  18. ^ Sweet, Lynn (November 21, 2006). "Gov picks Duckworth for Veterans Affairs". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  19. ^ Karen Meyer, Duckworth to be honored for commitment to disabled veterans, ABC-7 Chicago website; accessed November 12, 2014.
  20. ^, September 18, 2008.
  21. ^ Susan Kuczka, "Official admits error using state van; Tammy Duckworth took time off from job as state Veterans Affairs director to attend a campaign event but ran into controversy", Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL: September 18, 2008, pg. 1.
  22. ^ a b "Employee lawsuit pops up in Walsh-Duckworth race". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved July 20, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b Kurt Erickson. "Duckworth whistleblower trial date set". The Quad-City Times. Retrieved July 20, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Duckworth Tapped for VA Assistant Secretary". United States Department of Veterans Affairs. February 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  25. ^ "Senate Confirms Duckworth's Federal Nomination". Associated Press. April 23, 2009. Retrieved January 4, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Tammy Duckworth Resigns At VA, Illinois Congressional Run Could Be In The Cards". Huffington Post. June 14, 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  27. ^ Sneed, Michael (August 20, 2006). "Did you know.". Chicago Sun-Times (Sun-Times News Group). 
  28. ^ Biemer, John (September 29, 2006). "Dole makes it clear: He backs Roskam over Duckworth". Chicago Tribune (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  29. ^ Tammy Duckworth: IAVA's 2007 Veterans Leadership Award. YouTube. November 15, 2007. Retrieved July 20, 2015. 
  30. ^ "NIU to award honorary degree to 'a true American hero'". Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  31. ^ "Conventions 2008 – the Democrats". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  32. ^ "Ledbetter, Baldwin, Longoria to address Dem convention". Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  33. ^ "Duckworth touts Obama record at DNC convention",; accessed November 12, 2014.
  34. ^ Mordecai, Adam. "What's The Dumbest Thing You Could Say To A Congresswoman Who Lost Her Legs In Battle? Um, THIS". Retrieved June 30, 2013. 
  35. ^ Graham, D. A. (June 27, 2013). "Tammy Duckworth's Impassioned Shaming of a Faux-Disabled Vet". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  36. ^ Thompson, M. (June 27, 2013). "Service-Connected Dissembling". TIME Magazine. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  37. ^ Chumley, C. (June 27, 2013). "Rep. Tammy Duckworth, double amputee, slams IRS worker on disability". Washington Times. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  38. ^ "Election 2006 Results: State Races, Illinois". CNN. Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  39. ^ Sneed, Michael (July 6, 2011). "Tammy Duckworth running for Congress again, in redrawn 8th". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved July 9, 2011. 
  40. ^ For the House: Duckworth, editorial board, Chicago Tribune, October 8, 2012.
  41. ^ Endorsement: Duckworth over Walsh in 8th Congressional District, editorial board, Daily Herald, October 8, 2012.
  42. ^ "Walsh defends remarks on whether Duckworth is true hero". Chicago Tribune. July 3, 2012. 
  43. ^ "2012 Election Results by State – Illinois". Politico. 
  44. ^ Duaa Eldeib (November 10, 2012). "Duckworth the first Asian-American from Illinois in Congress". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  45. ^ Hinz, Greg (November 4, 2013). "Marine veteran to take on U.S. Rep. Duckworth". Crain's Chicago Business (Chicago, Illinois). Retrieved January 24, 2015. 
  46. ^ "Illinois General Election 2014". Illinois State Board of Elections. 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2015-02-24. 
  47. ^ Santostefano, Melanie (January 5, 2013). "Tammy Duckworth Sworn in to Congress". Palatine Patch. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  48. ^ Kiene, Chelsea (April 4, 2013). "Tammy Duckworth Returns Portion Of Salary In Sequestration Solidarity". Huffington Post. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  49. ^ "Tammy Duckworth Running Against Mark Kirk for US Senate". Chicago ABC 7 Eyewitness News. 30 March 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  50. ^ "Morning Spin: Duckworth snags teachers union endorsement in U.S. Senate race". Chicago Tribune. February 1, 2016. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  51. ^ "Candidate Duckworth sounds call to aid injured vets" by Rick Maze, Marine Corps Times Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  52. ^ "After War Injury, an Iraq Vet Takes on Politics". Retrieved July 20, 2015. 
  53. ^ Jeff Zeleny and John Biemer .Duckworth praised for stance on abortion: EMILY'S List backs congressional hopeful. Chicago Tribune. May 12, 2006.
  54. ^ Duckworth for Congress. "Duckworth outlines steps that can be taken to improve education."
  55. ^ "Illinois Congressional Candidate Tammy Duckworth to Deliver Democratic Radio Address", Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee press release, dated September 30, 2006.
  56. ^ "War vet turned candidate attacks Bush on Iraq", Associated Press, September 30, 2006.
  57. ^ Duckworth for Congress press release,, October 4, 2006.
  58. ^ Sarah Baxter "War heroine leads Democrat charge", The Sunday Times, October 22, 2006.
  59. ^ Pat Corcoran (August 17, 2006). "Duckworth calls for investigation of foreign spending since 9/11". Northbrook Star. Archived from the original on August 21, 2006. 
  60. ^ John Biemer and Christi Parsons, "Gun law heats up race for Congress", Chicago Tribune, October 11, 2006 (registration required)
  61. ^ Eric Krol, "Duckworth takes aim at Roskam gun record",, October 11, 2006.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Roy Dolgos
Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by
Daniel Grant
Preceded by
Lisette Mondello
Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Veterans Affairs
Succeeded by
Michael Galloucis
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joe Walsh
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 8th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Ron DeSantis
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Esty