SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH (1968 - )
Serving as the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois since 2017, Tammy Duckworth has made a name for herself with a number of firsts: She was the first female helicopter pilot to lead a combat mission and the first female double amputee of the Iraq war. The first Thai-American woman and the first woman with a disability elected to Congress, she was also the first U.S. Senator to give birth while in office. She is currently running for reelection.
Lada Tammy Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand, March 12, 1968, the daughter of Franklin Duckworth and Lamai Sompornpairin. Although born outside the United States, Duckworth is a natural-born citizen because her father was an American citizen. Her father, who died in 2005, was a veteran of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps who traced his family's American roots to the American Revolutionary War. Her mother is Thai Chinese and originally from Chiang Mai. Because her father worked with the United Nations and international companies in refugee, housing, and development programs, the family moved around Southeast Asia. As a result Duckworth became fluent in Thai and Indonesian, in addition to English.
Duckworth attended Singapore American School, the International School Bangkok, and the Jakarta International School. When Duckworth was 16, the family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where she attended Honolulu's McKinley High School, and participated in track and field, graduating in 1985. She was a Girl Scout, and earned her First Class, now called the Gold Award.
In 1989 she graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. In 1992, she received a Master of Arts in international affairs from George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. She began a PhD program at Northern Illinois University, which was interrupted by her war service She completed a PhD in human services at Capella University in March 2015
Duckworth joined the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps in 1990 as a graduate student at George Washington University. 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 at that time. As a member of the Army Reserve, she went to flight school, later transferring to the Army National Guard and in 1996 entering the Illinois Army National Guard Duckworth also worked as a staff supervisor at Rotary International headquarters in Evanston, Illinois and was the coordinator of the Center for Nursing Research at Northern Illinois University.
She was deployed to Iraq in 2004. She lost her right leg near the hip and her left leg below the knee 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. The explosion severely broke her right arm and tore tissue from it, necessitating major surgery to repair it.
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. She retired from the Illinois Army National Guard in October 2014 as a lieutenant colonel.
On November 21, 2006, several weeks after losing her first congressional campaign, Duckworth was appointed director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs by Governor Rod Blagojevich. She served in that position until February 8, 2009. While director, she was credited with starting a program to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and veterans with brain injuries.
On February 3, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Duckworth to be the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the United States Senate confirmed her for the position on April 22. As Assistant Secretary, she coordinated a joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help end Veteran homelessness, worked to address the unique challenges faced by female as well as Native American Veterans and created the Office of Online Communications to improve the VA's accessibility, especially among young Veterans. Duckworth resigned her position in June 2011 in order to launch her campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in Illinois's 8th congressional district.
Duckworth was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms.
Duckworth has been married to Bryan Bowlsbey since 1993 They met during Duckworth's participation in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps and later served together in the Illinois Army National Guard. Bowlsbey, a Signal Corps officer, is also a veteran of the Iraq War and is now retired from the armed forces. Senator Duckworth and her husband are the proud parents of two daughters, Abigail and Maile.
Editors Note: REELECT SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH