Unsung Heros

Tammy Duckworth

Congresswomen Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is a helicopter pilot veteran of the War on Terror. She was seriously wounded when her aircraft was shot down over Iraq. She still serves in the National Guard and is a Wounded Warrior.

QUESTION: What is it about women’s commitment to freedom and democracy?
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I think it says that they love their families and they love their Nation and women are willing to stand up to protect what they hold most dear, just as men are. I’m a daughter of the American Revolution and I trace my lineage all the way back to the first women who picked up arms when their husbands fell on the battlefield. So I think it just tells you that women love this Nation just as much as men do.

QUESTION: How aware were you when you were growing up about your heritage?
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I did not know when I was growing up that my heritage went all the way back to the Revolution. It wasn’t until I was in college when my dad moved back to Virginia and started retracing his roots. He had always known because his aunts and grandmother had been a Daughter of the American Revolution, but he started getting into genealogy later in life and that’s when we really found that there had actually been a member of our family in uniform during every period of conflict going back to the Revolution.

QUESTION: What was the impact of 9/11 on women’s role in the military?
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: I think 9/11 was an equalizer because women and men died, you know, at the Pentagon. The attack on the Pentagon was on us, it wasn’t on men, it wasn’t on any group, it was on America and the ideals of this Nation, of our democracy, same with the Towers. So I think what 9/11 did was sort of saw that we all had a stake in this. It wasn’t just for one group of us to stand up and defend. It was for all of us to stand up together.

QUESTION: Did women’s roles change much?
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: You know, for me, when pilot jobs for women were opened up for combat positions, that happened in ’93 and that was while I was in flight school. For me the most momentous change was when women were finally allowed to fly combat missions. On 9/11 I actually was in command of the Blackhawk Helicopter Company in Chicago when we were not sure if Chicago would be the next place hit. So I was the first female commander of that company and there we were, in one of the major cities in America, wondering if we were going to be next.

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