A Major in the Illinois Army National Guard, Tammy 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. She served as the Director of Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs where 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). She was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Assistant Secretary under Eric Shinseki. While at VA, Tammy led an unprecedented era of increased communication between the Department and the Veterans they serve.