Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth may have lost both her legs in Iraq, but that’s hardly the kind of thing one should mention, and it certainly isn’t particularly heroic. At least that’s the position of Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.
Walsh, who is running for re-election against Duckworth, said in a campaign event in Elk Grove, Ill. that Duckworth wasn’t a “true hero,” because she dared to talk about being injured. Walsh compared her unfavorably to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who — you may have heard — was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.
Understand something about John McCain. His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost throw him against a wall and hit him against the head and say, “Senator, you have to let people know you served! You have to talk about what you did!” He didn’t want to do it, wouldn’t do it. Day after day they had to convince him. Finally, he talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes. Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about. That’s why we’re so indebted and in awe of what they’ve done.
Nobody questions whether McCain heroically endured torture in Vietnam, and even his strongest political opponents have praised his service. McCain has, however, mentioned his service in Vietnam throughout his political career, and his service was the centerpiece of his unsuccessful 2008 presidential run.
Duckworth served as a helicopter pilot in Iraq. She was injured when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket fired by Iraqi insurgents. Duckworth lost both her legs and sustained severe injuries to her right arm. She received the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the Army Commendation Medal for her service.
After her injuries, Duckworth unsuccessfully ran for Congress, losing the open seat to Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill. Later, she served as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs under Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn. In April 2009 she joined the Veterans Administration as Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, a position she held until announcing a run for Congress in 2011.
Walsh has belittled Duckworth’s service before. In April, he said of Duckworth, “What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran … ehhh. She is nothing more than a handpicked Washington bureaucrat.”
Walsh won a narrow, 291-vote upset in 2011, ousting Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill. After winning, media reports surfaced indicating that he had a number of financial woes, including tax liens, a foreclosure, and over $100,000 in unpaid child support. Walsh’s 8th District has been significantly redrawn for the 2012 election and is considered much more friendly to Democrats than it was previously. Public Policy Polling has said that Walsh “may be the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country.”
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Image Credit: Mark Taylor