Tammy Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand on 12 March 1968, the daughter of a US Marine Corps veteran with colonial American roots and a Thai mother of Chinese descent. Her father worked in refugee housing and other humanitarian programs, so the family moved around Southeast Asia a lot; Duckworth became fluent in Thai and Indonesian in addition to English. The family settled in Hawaii when she was sixteen, and she graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1989 with a bachelor's degree in political science.
Military serviceWhile studying international affairs at George Washington University, Duckworth joined the ROTC program, and she became a commissioned officer in the US Army reserve in 1992 before flying helicopters into combat; at the time, that was one of the few combat roles that women could fill. She was studying at Northern Illinois University when she was deployed to Iraq in 2004, and she lost her right leg near the hip and her left leg near the hip when her Black Hawk helicopter was downed by RPG fire by Iraqi insurgents. She was the first female double amputee from the war, and she received a medical waiver; she reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Illinois Army National Guard before her October 2014 retirement from the army.
Duckworth worked in the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs for years, and she decided to launch herself into politics as a Democratic Party candidate for Illinois' 6th district in the US House of Representatives in 2006. She was supported by pro-choice groups, gun control groups, and the police, but she lost to Republican Party challenger Peter Roskam 51% to 49%. In 2012, however, she defeated Joe Walsh to become the congresswoman from the 8th district, becoming the first disabled woman to be elected to Congress and the first Asian-American congresswoman from her state. She was sworn into office on 3 January 2013, and she decided to run for the US Senate just two years later. Duckworth defeated the racist Republican Party senator Mark Kirk to become the Senator from Illinois, and she supported Obamacare, the right to choose, immigration reform, the admission of 100,000 Syrian refugees to the USA, and the auditing of US foreign aid.