Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth has many first names, including the first disabled woman to be elected to the United States Congress, the first disabled woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, and the first female senator to give birth during her term. Duckworth used her experience in the Iraq war to become a voice for U.S. soldiers, and soon her activism led her to a political career that was largely successful. From her early years to her time in the war and the achievements of the post-war period, you will find everything you need to know about the Asian-American politician.
Tammy Duckworth’s Bio
Duckworth was born Ladda Tammy Duckworth on March 12, 1968, in Bangkok, Thailand, the son of Franklin Duckworth, a World War II veteran of British descent, and Lamai Sompornpair of Thai and Chinese descent. Her father Franklin Franklin worked mostly in refugee missions at the United Nations, and as a result, Duckworth had to move around a lot as a child and spent periods of her early life in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Hawaii.
At the age of 16, her family settled in Hawaii, a time when her father was unemployed and the family was dependent on public support – a part of her life that resonated with voters when she entered politics.
Tammy Duckworth decided to follow in her father’s footsteps while she earned her master’s degree at George Washington University. She joined the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps and was promoted to officer in 1992. As she was interested in combat, Duckworth decided to attend flight school because flying an airplane was one of the few combat roles open to women. During her doctoral studies in political science at Northern Illinois University, Tammy Duckworth was sent to the Iraq war in 2004.
What Happened To Her Legs?
During her service in the Iraq War, Tammy Duckworth lost both legs in the fall of 2004 when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was flying was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents. Her right leg was lost around the hip, while her left leg was lost below the knee. Her right arm was also broken in three places, but the doctors were able to save it by replacing the bones in her arms. Duckworth was the first female double amputee from the Iraq war.
After her wounds, she received a Purple Heart and was promoted to Major on December 21. With the help of prostheses, she is now able to walk. Despite her wounds, Duckworth received a medical waiver and continued to serve as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard. She retired from military service in 2014.
While recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Duckworth became an activist working to improve health care for veterans. Twice she presented her views to the US Congress. After a full recovery, Duckworth began her political career as a Democrat in 2006.
After losing her first election to Congress, Duckworth was appointed Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. After his election to office, President Obama would elect Duckworth as his Deputy Secretary of Public and Interstate Affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. She stepped down from this office in July 2011 to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 8th Congressional District of Illinois. Duckworth defeated the incumbent Republican Joe Walsh.
Tammy Duckworth successfully ran for the Senate in 2016, defeating Republican incumbent Mark S. Kirk.
Tammy Duckworth is married to Bryan Bowlsbey. The couple met in the early 1990s when they were both members of the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Her husband, a major, still serves in the Illinois Army National Guard. Like Tammy, he is an Iraq war veteran.
Their children include two daughters, Abigail, who was born in 2014, and Maile, who arrived in 2018, making Duckworth the first senator to deliver during his term. Shortly after the arrival of her child, the Senate changed the rules to allow a Senator to bring her child under one year of age to the Senate and breast-feed her child during the voting.
Unusual for army brats, teenage Tammy Duckworth had to move around a lot and as a result attended many high schools, including Singapore American School, International School Bangkok, and McKinley High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, which she graduated with honors in 1985.
Immediately after high school, Duckworth transferred to the University of Hawaii, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1989. In 1992, she earned a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. She also holds a doctorate in human services from Capella University, which she received in March 2015. In May 2010, Duckworth was awarded an honorary doctorate by Northern Illinois University.