Memorial Day: Honoring L. Tammy Duckworth

Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


388px-Tammy_Duckworth_at_National_World_War_II_Memorial_for_premiere_of_The_Pacific_2010-03-11L. Tammy Duckworth was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. She was confirmed by the Senate on April 22, 2009 and sworn in by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, on April 24, 2009.

As Assistant Secretary, Duckworth represents and advises the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on matters relating to media and public affairs. She directs departmental communications and oversees programs relating to intergovernmental relations, homeless Veterans, consumer affairs, and the Department’s six national rehabilitative special event programs. Since her appointment as Assistant Secretary she has consolidated VA’s outreach programs and created the Office for New/Social Media, the Office for Tribal Governments and the VA Outreach Office.

Duckworth previously served as the Director of Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. As director, she implemented many first-in-the-nation, programs for Veterans, especially in the areas of health care, mental health, housing and employment. She also initiated a new grant program, awarding lottery funds to non-profits working on Veterans disability, homelessness, long-term medical care and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

A Major in the Illinois Army National Guard, Duckworth served in Iraq as an Assistant Operations Officer and a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. During a mission north of Baghdad in 2004, the aircraft she was co-piloting was ambushed and struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. The crew successfully landed the aircraft but as a result of the attack, Duckworth lost both of her legs and partial use of one arm. She received decorations for her actions, including the Purple Heart, the Air Medal, and the Combat Action Badge.

Since her recovery at Walter Reed, Duckworth has dedicated her life to public service, advocating on behalf of disability rights and Veterans. In 2006, Duckworth was the Democratic Candidate for Illinois’ 6th Congressional District. In 2007, she received the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award and was named the 2008 Disabled Veteran of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans. In 2008, she was selected by Candidate Obama to deliver the presidential campaign’s key address on Veterans’ rights at the Democratic National Convention. In 2009, she was named as an American Veterans (AMVETS) Silver Helmet award recipient as well as The George Washington University’s Colin Powell Public Service Award Recipient.

Duckworth served as a manager for Rotary International’s Asia Pacific Region. She speaks fluent Thai and Indonesian and is a published author on the health risks of environmental radon and lung cancer. She has declined her Army medical retirement to continue her service in the National Guard. In 2008 and 2009, she completed the Chicago Marathon, fulfilling a promise made at Walter Reed. She has also resumed flying as a civilian pilot.

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