I was curious about the woman pictured with the dignitaries at the White House in my previous posting. Barack Obama introduced her in his speech as Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth, an assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
I did a little internet research, and have to say how impressed I am with this woman, and her selection for this post at the VA.
Ms. Duckworth is the daughter of an American diplomat and a Thai mother. She grew up all over Southeast Asia, where her father worked for the United Nations, and is fluent in both Thai and Indonesian.
She holds a Bachelor of Art in polital science from the University of Hawaii, a Masters of Arts in international affairs from George Washington University, and was working towards a PhD at George Washington, when she was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Her husband, Bryan Bowlsbey, is an officer in the US Army.
Duckworth was a helicopter pilot for the Army Reserve (one of the few combat positions open to women) and lost the lower parts of both her legs, and partial use of one arm, when the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down by Iraqi forces. (Although the helicopter was terribly damaged, the pilots managed to land it, and avoid crashing.)
After her discharge from the Army, she entered politics, winning the Democratic primary in Illinois, but losing the election for a seat in the US House of Representatives by 2%. This was, apparently, a particularly ugly political race. From all I've read, Ms. Duckworth is a tough woman. In 2006, she was appointed director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
I cannot imagine a more appropriate person to serve as an Assistant Secretary for the Veterans Administration. Ever since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, I've been fretting about the care that returning veterans would recieve. I hope that Ms. Duckworth's appointment (unanimously approved by the US Senate) signals a positive approach to veterans' care.