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Child-Support Dodging Republican Denigrates War Veteran Opponent's Military Service--She Responds

Tammy Duckworth speaks with Alex Seitz-Wald about her Republican opponent's attack on her military service

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What’s different now is me. I have significantly more government experience. In those six years since 2006, I’ve started many many programs that have been successful on behalf of veterans. Whether it was was working with then then-Lieutenant Governor Quinn [as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs] to tackle president Obama’s tax credits for Illinois businesses that hire veterans, [or starting] the first-in-the-nation 24-hour mental health crisis hotline for veterans. We [also] started an award-winning home loan program for veterans.

And then at the federal VA, when I was privileged to serve under General Shinseki [the Secretary of Veterans Affairs] there, I was put in charge of the homelessness program, and I was able to cut the number of homeless veterans in half at my time there.

What would a Mitt Romney presidency mean for veterans?

I don’t know. I would hope that he would support our nation’s veterans. I think, as you said earlier, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, a Democrat or a Tea Partier like Joe Walsh, you should support our vets, and I hope that Mr. Romney would do that. I am worried, though, that as part of the Republican presidential primary debate, he, in line with almost every other Republican candidate, called for an invasion of Iran. I don’t think that that’s anything that our military men and women should take as a first action. We need to have a national discussion about the true cost of war. And if it’s in the best interest of the nation, then fine, but we need to have a national discuss about it first. So I’m a little worried when candidates for presidents so easily pass out talk about invading Iran.

Looking at your  biography, it occurred to me that you share some similarities with Barack Obama, growing up in Indonesia and Hawaii to parents of mixed ancestry, though you were born in Thailand to an American father. How has that experience informed you?

My dad worked for the United Nations development program and refugee programs after his service in Vietnam. And then he worked for some large multinational corporations, so I think I have a global perspective on the shining light that America can be in the world. Where I was growing up, America was the example for the rest of the world, and we should continue to be that. I’ve not talked to the president too much about that background. We were separated by eight years in Hawaii and also some time in Indonesia, but I think that there’s a common perspective there in terms of caution in protecting America’s military might only as a last resort and an understanding that we need to be more competitive in Asia.

After graduating from Officer Candidate School, you chose to be a helicopter pilot because it was one of the few combat jobs open to women. An insurgent shot down your helicopter in Iraq and you lost both your legs, as well as the use of your right arm. I can’t imagine how difficult that is. What keeps you going?

If I tell you, will you not beat me up for talking about my military service? [Laughs.] It literally goes back to that day in that field in Iraq. You know, we all have defining moments in our lives. But for me, it is that day. It is that day when my buddies refused to leave me behind. I should be dead. I was triaged for dead. They assumed that I was dead. They came back and carried my body out and gave me a shot. Everyday, whether it was in the hospital learning to walk again, or every day since, has been about trying to live up to that. Because the real heroes were those men who carried me out, my buddies.

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