Tammy Duckworth won election to the House of Representatives from Illinois in November, her second try at elected office. Before entering politics, Duckworth was a helicopter pilot in the Army. In November 2004, the Black Hawk she was flying was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade; Duckworth lost both legs, and nearly lost her right arm. After returning to the U.S. and undergoing rehab, she became director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and later assistant secretary in the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
Yesterday, Braulio Castillo had the misfortune to encounter her.
Military Times explains the back story:
Braulio Castillo broke his foot in a prep school injury nearly three decades ago at the U.S. Military Preparatory School, which he attended for nine months before playing football in college. He owns a technology business certified as a service-disabled, veteran-owned company eligible for government set aside contracts.
Castillo's VA doctors gave him a 30 percent disabled rating; he never saw combat. Duckworth wasn't pleased. It was clear Castillo he was in for a rough ride when Duckworth started off by asking him, with faux politeness, if his foot hurt, before describing her own phantom pains. But the tensest moments come late in Duckworth's time:
DUCKWORTH: Do you feel that the 30 percent rating that you have for the scars and the pain in your foot is accurate to the sacrifices that you've made for this nation, that the VA decision is accurate in your case?
CASTILLO: Yes ma'am, I do.
DUCKWORTH: You know my right arm was essentially blown off and reattached. I spent a year in limb salvage with over a dozen surgeries over that time period. And in fact we thought I would lose my arm, and I'm still in danger of possibly losing my arm. I can't feel it, I can't feel my three fingers. My disability rating for that arm is 20 percent.
The whole video is worth watching.
Duckworth's moment is all the more striking given that her predecessor was this guy, Joe Walsh, who Slate's Dave Weigel dubbed "the biggest media hound" in the House Tea Party freshman class. Walsh, a non-veteran, assailed Duckworth on the campaign trail for talking too much about her military service: "Now I'm running against a woman who, I mean, my God, that's all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it's the last thing in the world they talk about."