Tammy Duckworth urges students to remember fallen veterans

Illinois Army National Guard Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth finds the positives in any situation.

Speaking Tuesday afternoon to students at Trinity Lutheran School in Burr Ridge, the U.S. representative for the 8th Congressional District joked there are advantages to the metal legs that she uses to get around.

“My feet don’t get cold in the wintertime; I was 3 inches shorter before I got these, and I can wear the pointiest pointed-toe shoes and it doesn’t hurt,” Duckworth laughed.

Duckworth, a Democratic, said she does not remember being afraid during the Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade attack on her Blackhawk helicopter in November 2004, an attack in which she lost her legs.

“I was just concerned that I was not going to get the aircraft back on the ground,” she said of flying the helicopter.

With headset communication lost between her and her three chopper mates, Duckworth thought she was the only one still alive. She would drift in and out of consciousness because of the blood she was losing, but was able to play a role in landing the aircraft.

Bob Geaschel, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, first met Duckworth in 1996 when both were in the Army. Geaschel was one of the individuals who stayed with Duckworth through her long journey back to the United States after her injuries.

“She is the most brave, courageous female I have ever met,” Geaschel told students. “I served in an Army division for nine years and I can count on one hand the female pilots I came across.”

Duckworth said she hoped that students at least said a prayer at some point during the past holiday weekend for those who have served this country.

“People think of Memorial Day as a time for barbecues and when the swimming pools open up for the summer,”she said. “People know there is Memorial Day and they know there is Veterans Day, but they don’t know the difference between them.

“Memorial Day celebrates individuals who died for this country and it honors those individuals who served in the Armed Forces and passed away.”

She asked the Trinity students to remember fallen veterans next Memorial Day, marking the day as more than an opportunity to get a frankfurter off the grill.

Geaschel said he has been trying to get Duckworth to visit the school for years, but with her schedule and campaigns for office it was difficult to find a time to get her to Burr Ridge.

“I am so happy we were able to make this work,” Geaschel said.

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