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    Monday, December 19, 2005

    Maj. L. Tammy Duckworth


    I love this woman:

    During 13 months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, Maj. L. Tammy Duckworth says, she did a lot of reading about American schoolchildren "losing our competitive advantage" with China. Encountering questions about her top-of-the-line prostheses while walking around a shopping mall, she says, made her ponder inequities in America's health care system.

    And there was plenty of time to critique the Bush administration's prosecution of the war in Iraq, where she lost both legs and partial use of her right arm when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Black Hawk helicopter she was flying over the Tigris River.

    So Ms. Duckworth, who was discharged from Walter Reed on Wednesday and from active duty the day before, decided to run for Congress, joining a growing group of a dozen Iraq veterans running next year - most, like her, as Democrats....

    Indeed, Ms. Duckworth, who received the Air Medal as well as a Purple Heart, already has the talking points down: "My role in the Army gives me the courage to make the tough decisions," is one of her lines. And: "Those of us who've served on the ground have a unique perspective on the war and on what it means to serve in combat." ...

    Ms. Duckworth said that she had opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start, even as she volunteered for deployment, but that she did not favor the quick withdrawal that some Democrats seek.

    "I think we broke it and we need to fix it," she said. "We have a commitment and an obligation to make sure that we help Iraqi security forces be able to maintain their own security. We need to come up with an aggressive plan based on benchmarks for when we're going to leave." ...

    She was one of very few women flying combat missions in Iraq, until her Black Hawk was felled on Nov. 12, 2004. In between more than two dozen operations (she says she lost count) while at Walter Reed, she testified before Congress about military health care benefits and was a guest of Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, at this year's State of the Union address. She can now walk up to a mile unaided with her prostheses, but generally uses a cane and spends some of each day in a wheelchair; she still lacks full use of her right arm.


    I am so proud of all the Iraq vets who are running for office (I'll be honest- especially the Democrats), but I am especially proud that a woman, and a woman of color at that, and a differently-abled woman of color at that feels empowered to get involved as a politician. I can't wait to see her on the campaign trail.

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