Durbin Introduces Duckworth at VA Hearing
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced President Obama’s choice to be Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Tammy Duckworth, to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
“Tammy’s entire life has been in service to our country. She is a proven leader and public servant uniquely qualified for this position,” said Durbin. “Tammy’s advocacy for veterans is recognized by the veterans’ community and beyond. In nominating Tammy Duckworth, the President knew he was getting a committed veterans’ advocate who will focus on ensuring all veterans receive the benefits and quality medical care they deserve.”
Durbin first met Duckworth at Walter Reed Army Medical Center while she was recuperating from injuries received when the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting over Iraq was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade. In the attack, she lost her left leg and her right leg has since been amputated. She spent months recovering at Walter Reed, facing multiple surgeries, extensive rehab and continuous upgrades of her prostheses. Duckworth was presented with a Purple Heart and awarded an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal.
Durbin invited Duckworth as his guest to the State of the Union in 2005. In 2006, she was appointed the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. As assistant secretary, Duckworth will direct VA’s public affairs, internal communications and intergovernmental relations. She also will oversee programs for homeless Veterans, consumer affairs and special rehabilitative events.
Text of remarks as prepared:
Tammy Duckworth Introduction
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees
April 1, 2009
It’s my honor to introduce Tammy Duckworth as nominee for VA Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Tammy’s entire life has been in service to our country. She is a proven leader and public servant uniquely qualified for this position.
Family and Career History
Tammy was born into a family with a military tradition. The daughter of a Marine, she is a second generation Purple Heart recipient.
After completing his service, Tammy’s father worked for the UN. She spent much of her childhood in Southeast Asia, before arriving in the Chairman’s home state of Hawai’i at the age of 16.
Tammy started her military career in 1990, joining ROTC in graduate school. She was commissioned in the Army Reserve in 1992. After completing helicopter flight school, Tammy joined the Illinois National Guard in 1996.
In her civilian career, she worked on lung cancer prevention at Northern Illinois University’s Center for Nursing Research, and was a global manager for Rotary International.
Deployment and injury
In 2004, Tammy was a doctoral student when she requested to deploy to Iraq. In the afternoon of November 12, 2004, she was on her last mission of the day in Baghdad.
Her Blackhawk helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. It ripped through the cockpit and hit Tammy at the legs. Not realizing the degree of her injuries, she attempted to assist her co-pilot land the damaged aircraft.
Once on the ground, her crew loaded Tammy onto a second helicopter. Tammy’s next memory was waking up at Walter Reed, with her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, also a member of the Illinois National Guard, by her side. The incident cost her both legs and shattered her right arm.
I met Tammy while she was recovering at Walter Reed, 10 weeks after the incident. There I saw the same strong, determined, and optimistic woman you see today.
She was not done serving her country. While recovering from her injuries and learning to use artificial legs, she turned her energies to helping fellow servicemembers.
Tammy moved back to Illinois, continuing her treatment at Hines VAMC in Chicago. Less than 2 years later, Tammy ran for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District.
Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs
She did not win, but in November 2006, she became the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Tammy’s drive and focus immediately impacted the IDVA.
During her tenure, the Department started several first-in-the-nation programs including:
• The Illinois Warrior Assistance Program requiring additional screening for PTSD and TBI;
• The GI Loan for Heroes Mortgage Loan Program;
• The VetsCash grant program, which provided over $5 million in grants to veteran service organizations; and,
• Veterans Adaptive Activities Day, bringing together Illinois organizations specializing in adaptive recreations and sports.
Awards and Recognition
Tammy’s advocacy for veterans is recognized by the veterans’ community and beyond.
She was a Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award recipient in 2007, along with President Clinton, and the late historian John Hope Franklin.
She also received the ACCESS Living Disability Leader of the Year Award in 2007, was the DAV Disabled Veteran of the Year in 2008, and received the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award in 2009.
President Obama now calls on Tammy to bring her ethic of service to Washington. She is undeniably qualified.
As an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, she knows the difficulties servicemembers can face upon return from the battlefield.
As a recipient of VA medical care, she understands quality of care issues, and the frustration VA bureaucracies can create.
She has the perspective of a provider of veteran services.
And, as the spouse of a servicemember who deployed to a combat zone, she understands the anxieties of families waiting for loved ones to come home.
Make no mistake - in nominating Tammy Duckworth, the President knew he was getting a committed veterans’ advocate.
She will continue her focus on ensuring all veterans receive the benefits and quality medical care they deserve.
We all look forward to working with Tammy as she enters a new phase of service to our nation and our veterans. Thank you.
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