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May 2, 2007

What We Talk About When We Talk To Tammy Duckworth

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Q: THE SITUATION IN IRAQ HAS DETERIORATED SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE YOU LEFT. DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU?
A: It doesn’t, because of the complete lack of any type of a plan from this administration. It just boggles my mind that they ordered an invasion without a plan for how to occupy and how to bring people home. I want to hold Secretary Rumsfeld accountable. He had better be sitting in a chair once a month to report on where Iraqi security forces stand. First, you need to tell us how many have been trained up and are capable of acting independently; then let’s deploy that many Americans home.

Q: RECENTLY YOU WERE BACK AT WALTER REED, WHERE YOU RECUPERATED.
A: Uh-huh. I was just there for a new pair of legs. They are fabulous! They’re just like this pair [points to her microchip- operated metal prostheses] on the inside, and then they are carved out of foam by an artist. There’s a latex skin that rolls over the top that’s matched to my skin tone perfectly. They even matched my freckles! They have toenails that can be painted.

Q: HOW MANY PAIRS OF LEGS DO YOU HAVE?
A: A primary pair, a back up pair, and now I have the cosmetic legs. They’re programming the right leg so I can fly again. And I’m going to get some swim legs that have fins instead of feet.

Q: WHAT ARE THE FASHION CHALLENGES?
A: Because I’m such a high amputee on my right side, I often have to buy skirts and pants one size too big. At least that’s my excuse for having gone up a size. But now I can squeeze my “feet” into really pointy shoes, and they don’t hurt anymore [laughs]. Are there times when I wish I had normal-looking, pretty legs? Yeah. And every time I read about the new high-wedge heels or whatever, it’s a little sad. But what is that compared to being alive?

Q: IS THAT YOUR DOG TAG YOU’RE WEARING AROUND YOUR WRIST?
A: No, it’s part of the Soldiers Creed. It says, “I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.” It’s got the Army values on the other side: “loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage.” That’s who I am. That’s who my buddies were when they pulled me out of that field, because you don’t leave a fallen comrade behind. And I think that applies to everyday life. We’re becoming a country that says to people, “Too bad you weren’t born into a family that can afford to write you a tuition check, too bad you can’t afford health insurance; we’re going to leave you to the wolves.” And that’s not the country that I love. The country that I love is for all of us.


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