For many of us, the Iraq war is an abstract news story that we (hopefully) try to keep up with. But for the men and women in the military, the war is their daily reality. Tammy Duckworth may already be familiar to you—after losing her legs in Iraq she became a national news story when she ran for Congress in Illinois (and lost by two percent of the vote) in the last election.
But there’s more to Major Duckworth than her foray into politics. Her story is one of sacrifice, survival and honor. Savvy Miss caught up with her on a break from her new job as director of the Illinois Veterans' Affairs Department to talk about overcoming her injuries, how she was able to fight in a war she strongly opposed and what our soldiers need all of us to do. It might be hard for some of us to understand how a woman could fight in a war she didn’t believe in and still say she would go back after losing her legs. Even though we might not comprehend her willingness, we can admire her strength to do so.
Savvy Miss: During the election, you spoke out against the Iraq war and said it was a mistake from the beginning, yet you willingly went and fought. How were you able to fight for something you didn’t believe in?
Tammy Duckworth: I believe in the United States and the Constitution. Even though I did not believe in the war—I felt there were poor decisions made by the president and his advisors—he was still my commander in chief. I had raised my hand and swore an oath to defend the Constitution. I believe in this country and I believe 100% in my oath of office and the privilege of wearing the uniform of this country. I would go again tomorrow; it’s why I still serve today.
SM: There are people that think speaking against the war means you are not supporting the troops. How can we support our troops if we don’t agree with the war?
Duckworth: People have to understand that the men and women in uniform no longer have freedom of speech. In exchange for the privilege of wearing the uniform, you give [that] up. Those of us who have freedom of speech, whether or not you agree with the war, wherever you stand, you need to exercise that freedom because the troops cannot stand up while in uniform and say “I disagree with this war”—just like I couldn’t then. It’s important for you to speak your mind while respecting their sacrifice and respecting what’s important and the values of our service members. But sometimes supporting them means you need to speak out because they can’t.