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Iraq Veteran Named To Lead Illinois Agency

Tammy Duckworth, a former pilot who lost both legs in Iraq, is nominated to head the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
Tammy Duckworth, a former pilot who lost both legs in Iraq, is nominated to head the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. (By Tasos Katopodis -- Getty Images)

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Associated Press
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

CHICAGO, Nov. 21 -- Iraq war veteran and failed congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth has a new mission: directing the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) announced the appointment Tuesday.

Leading the agency is a logical next step after a losing bid to replace retiring Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), said Duckworth, a Democrat and former Army helicopter pilot who lost her legs after a rocket-propelled grenade attack north of Baghdad.

"As a soldier I fought for my country, and now I thank Governor Blagojevich for giving me the opportunity to fight for my fellow Illinois veterans," she said in a statement.

Blagojevich said Duckworth's experiences as a soldier and her rank as a major in the Illinois Army National Guard will help her run the department, which handles benefits, education and nursing care for veterans and their families.

"She has been an inspiration to people all over the country, showing extraordinary personal strength and speaking out on behalf of soldiers who are coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," the governor said.

Duckworth, 38, lost the House race earlier this month to state Sen. Peter Roskam (R).

Duckworth's first priority is to boost enrollment in Veterans Care, a state health-care program that the governor said could help more than 9,000 Illinois veterans who do not qualify for federal aid. As of last week, 14 people had enrolled in the program in 75 days, and an additional 19 applications were pending, according to the Blagojevich administration.

Duckworth's appointment to the $102,000-a-year job is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 15. It needs confirmation from the state Senate.


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