Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is not your typical member of Congress. In 2004, Duckworth’s helicopter was hit by an rocket-propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents. As a result of the attack, the Army National Guard member lost both legs and part of the use of her right arm. Realizing her injury would prevent her from going back to her unit, she sought out a new mission: the U.S. Congress.
Today, Duckworth, a Democrat, is still an active Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard, but she also serves as a U.S. Congresswoman, representing Illinois’ 8th District. She is the first-ever woman injured in combat to be elected to national office.
And between the introduction of women into combat roles and the rise of sexual assault in the military, Duckworth’s knowledge, experience, and service for her country does not go unnoticed on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, Rep. Duckworth joined NOW with Alex Wagner to discuss her own experience in the military, veterans’ affairs, and her amendment to prevent military sexual assault.
Of the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, Duckworth said, “even a single case of rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment is not acceptable.”
Duckworth’s amendment gives sexual assault victims in the military an option to bring their perpetrators to justice outside the chain of command. “I want to empower the victims by offering the choice,” Duckworth said. “If they want to stay with the chain of command, they can, but if they want to go a completely independent route…then the victims should have that right.”
Of Duckworth’s patriotism both on and off the battlefield, TIME’s Joe Klein remarked, “Her kind of courage shows you that courage doesn’t have a gender.”