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Crusader 11-26-2012 01:18 AM

Battle-hardened double amputee to prospective congressional foes: 'Bring it'
Battle-hardened double amputee to prospective congressional foes: 'Bring it'

When Tammy Duckworth steps into Congress this January for her first term, she’ll be carried by two prosthetic legs – and the potent notion that if she can survive a grenade blast while piloting a chopper, she surely can endure any political flak on Capitol Hill.

“The worst day for me in Washington on the floor of the House is never going to be as bad as me getting blown up. So bring it,” said Duckworth, a Democrat who represents Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, the suburbs north of Chicago.

One of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq, Duckworth’s Black Hawk was hit by enemy fire in November 2004 as the aircraft skimmed tree tops at about 135 miles per hour. The explosion vaporized her right leg, smashed her left leg into the instrument panel, sheering it off, and tore away most of her right arm. Before losing consciousness, she used her remaining arm to try to land the sputtering chopper. On Nov. 6, she won election to the U.S. House.

“There’s nothing anyone can say to me or do to me — short of actually pointing a gun and shooting at me — that’s going to be as bad as it was in Iraq and that year I spent recovering. So it’s really freeing,” Duckworth told NBC News. “Had you talked to me 10 years ago, before I served and got hurt in combat, I would not have the courage to do what I’m doing now.”

The sudden violence of her final mission — followed by months of surgeries, (doctors reattached her arm), and rehab at Walter Reed Army Medical Center — imbued Duckworth, 44, with an intimate understanding of warfare’s true cost, a sensibility that’s fast vanishing from both chambers of Congress.

In 1977, the 435-seat U.S. House of Representatives contained 347 veterans (almost 80 percent of that body) while 65 former service members filled the 100-seat U.S. Senate.

In 2013, 84 fellow veterans will join Duckworth in the House (19 percent) while the Senate’s cadre of ex-military personnel has dwindled to 18, according the American Legion.

“That’s incredible,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a nonpartisan and nonprofit group with more than 200,000 members. “The volunteer military has been great for our military, but maybe it’s not great for our democracy.”

The rapidly shrinking corps of congressional veterans threatens to dampen the attention Washington pays to tens of thousands of men and women yet to return from Afghanistan and, Rieckhoff added, to more than 2 million post-9/11 veterans — many of them tormented by combat-related stress and troubled by sluggish hiring rates, Rieckhoff said.

Battle-hardened double amputee to prospective congressional foes: 'Bring it' - U.S. News


This is a good read.

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