Independent Record: On a mission for veterans’ issues

It was an intimidatingly large white room, stocked with solid-looking equipment meant for servicing the imposing army helicopters lined up in the center of the space. But Tammy Duckworth seemed at home there, casually discussing the various attributes of the aircraft, commenting on her own experiences in the drivers’ seat of such machines.

“I think I want to just go over and hug a Black Hawk for a while,” she joked.

It is a notable sentiment, since she almost lost her life co-piloting one of them. In 2004, while she was serving as an assistant operations officer in Iraq, her helicopter was ambushed during a mission north of Baghdad and struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. She lost both of her legs and the partial use of her right arm as a result.

Since her recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Duckworth has turned her attention to fellow veterans, working as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs for several years before President Barack Obama nominated her to serve as the Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs two years ago.

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