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A Woman I Admire Writing Competition Spring 2018

Senator Tammy Duckworth
Clare Marsh

Tammy Duckworth is used to making history. She is an extraordinary woman, not to say, super-woman. In April 2018 she will turn fifty and is due to have a baby, her second daughter; the first Senator to give birth while serving in office. The Democrat Senator for Illinois will add another achievement to a remarkable life.

Tammy was born in Bangkok, Thailand. Her mother was Thai of Chinese heritage and her father American. Racially abused for her ethnic origins by political rivals, she is the second Asian American woman, and first disabled woman, to become a Senator.

Highly intelligent, articulate, passionate about the causes she believes in, she is fearlessly outspoken. And she has Donald Trump in her sights. Literally. During the brief January 2018 US government shutdown, she said, ‘I will not be lectured about what our military needs by a five-deferment draft dodger’. She berated him for baiting North Korea into what would be a catastrophic war for service personnel and millions of civilians.

This is not mere bandying of political insults; Tammy knows better than anyone what it means to serve in the military and the huge personal toll. Tammy has another first to her credits — one which no-one would envy her for. She is the first female double-amputee from the Iraq War. Tammy joined the army in 1992 and was in the reserve forces for 23 years. By retirement she had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was among the first army women to fly combat missions. She did not agree with the Iraq War, but served because she thought it her duty.

Her life changed forever on 12 November 2004. She was co-piloting a Black Hawk helicopter near Taji, north of Baghdad, when it took a direct hit from an insurgent's rocket-propelled grenade. Tammy was in the direct line of fire. In an instant she lost her right leg from the hip down, her left below the knee and the partial use of her right arm. Remarkably, she attempted to control the helicopter, thinking she had feeling in her legs. She lost half her blood. Although it was badly damaged, Tammy's co-pilot landed the helicopter in a field and a second Black Hawk landed to offer support.

Tammy was evacuated first to Germany, then to the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre, Washington D.C. where she was reunited with her husband Major Bryan Bowlsbey. She stayed there over a year in rehabilitation. Her army career was over and she was awarded the Purple Heart. She had her first child and completed her Ph.D. She became a passionate advocate for veterans and her political career began.

Barack Obama appointed Tammy as assistant secretary in the US Department of Veterans Affairs. She was elected to Congress in 2012 and the Senate in 2016. In a recent speech, Tammy referred to the ‘current occupant of the Oval Office’. Her sights are set.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the next President of the United States.

Clare Marsh © 2018