Who is Tammy Duckworth? Everything you need to know about the Asian-American war veteran who's just become the new Illinois senator

Tammy Duckworth wins Illinois Senate vote

Tammy Duckworth has ousted Mark Kirk in Illinois in the US elections, the first and only Senate seat taken by the Democrats from the Republicans.

Iraq war veteran and double-amputee Duckworth has already served two terms in the House of Representatives, and will be the first female senator to have served in combat.

Early life

Duckworth, 48, was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and grew up in various countries around south-east Asia as her father - a US Army veteran - worked for the United Nations.

After her family moved to America when she was 16, Duckworth attended the University of Hawaii and went on to George Washington University in the US capital, where she earned a master of arts in international affairs.

Following her graduation, trilingual Duckworth moved to Illinois where she pursued a PhD in political science at Northern Illinois University. She also worked at the School of Nursing and was involved in research into public health and the environmental causes of cancer.

Military service

#TBT Iraq 2004 during a break in the mission day

Duckworth followed in her father's footsteps and joined the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps while at George Washington University in 1990, choosing to become a helicopter pilot as, at the time, it was one of the only combat positions available to women.

In 2004, at the age of 36, Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot - one of the first women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As a co-pilot, her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade which exploded directly under her in the cockpit. She lost both legs and partial use of her right arm, and was awarded the Purple Heart.

Duckworth spent a year recovering from her injuries at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Maryland, where she became an advocate for veterans.


Barack Obama and Tammy Duckworth
(M Spencer Green/AP/PA)

Duckworth first ran for Congress in 2006, narrowly missing out by two points - but the defeat didn't dampen her spirits. She soon became director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs where she established a 24/7 crisis hotline and helped improve veterans' access to health care and housing, among other achievements.

Three years later, when Barack Obama was sworn into office, the new president appointed Duckworth assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs. She led an initiative that helped veterans reintegrate into society, established services for homeless veterans and highlighted the challenges female veterans faced.

Duckworth resigned from her position in 2011 to launch her Congress campaign in Illinois' 8th congressional district.


Tammy Duckworth and Mark Kirk
(Seth Perlman/AP/PA)

Duckworth defeated deputy treasurer of Illinois Raja Krishnamoorthi for the Democratic nomination in 2012, to face Republican Joe Walsh for the House of Representatives seat, and months later, she became the first member of Congress born in Thailand.

Last year, she announced she would challenge Kirk for his Illinois seat in the 2016 Senate election, and defeated fellow Democrats Andrea Zopp and Napoleon Harris.

Duckworth appeared on a televised US election debate on October 27 this year, where she spoke proudly of her own and her family's history serving in the US military, to which Kirk responded: "I forgot your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington."

Tammy Duckworth - Timeline | Facebook

Kirk faced a barrage of criticism, even losing his endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign, forcing him to apologise for the comment.

Duckworth defeated Kirk to win the Illinois seat once held by Barack Obama.

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