Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and Illinois congressional candidate,… (Tannen Maury / European…)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mitt Romney took some ferocious incoming fire Tuesday from Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and Illinois congressional candidate who won roars of approval from the Democratic National Convention when she attacked the Republican presidential nominee as out of touch with the American military.
“Last week, Mitt Romney had a chance to show his support for the brave men and women he is seeking to command,” said Duckworth, referring to Romney’s speech at the Republican National Convention. “But he chose to criticize President Obama instead of even uttering the word ‘Afghanistan.’ "
Duckworth, who lost both legs and part of an arm when the Blackhawk helicopter she piloted was shot down north of Baghdad in November 2004, told delegates about her nearly deadly mission, her crew’s fierce bravery in saving her, and her steadfast support for Obama, who she later served as an undersecretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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“Barack Obama will never ignore our troops,” Duckworth said. “He will fight for them. That's why he is my choice on Nov. 6."
Romney’s team insists he has not ignored the military and point out that he paid tribute to the armed forces just before the GOP convention, when he addressed the American Legion.
Duckworth saved her most compelling words for the end of her brief speech. She told of the day her Blackhawk was downed by enemy fire.
“A rocket-propelled grenade hit our helicopter, exploding in my lap,” Duckworth said, “ripping off one leg, crushing the other and tearing my right arm apart. But I kept trying to fly until I passed out.”
“In that moment,” Duckworth continued, “my survival and the survival of my entire crew depended on all of us pulling together. And, even though they were wounded themselves and insurgents were nearby, they refused to leave a fallen comrade behind. Their heroism is why I'm alive today.”
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Political testimonials seldom get that visceral at conventions. The delegates seemed captivated, though most viewers at home would not see the speech unless they tuned to CSPAN because broadcast TV networks had not yet begun their hour of live convention coverage.
Duckworth suggested that the performance of her Blackhawk crew should serve as a metaphor for all Americans.
She said the election “is about whether we will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me; whether we'll look out for the hardest hit and the disabled; whether we'll pull together in a time of need; whether we'll refuse to give up until the job is done.”
With a final word on behalf of Obama, Duckworth took her cane and walked off the stage, self-sufficient on her two prosthetic legs. The live image would be lost to most Americans but those who were there are unlikely to forget it any time soon.