This past Sunday, Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, who never served a day in the military, shamelessly questioned the heroism of his Congressional opponent, Illinois Army National Guard veteran and double amputee, Major Tammy Duckworth.
Using Senator John McCain as his foil to demean Duckworth, Walsh smeared Duckworth’s service and undermined her sacrifice. Americans nationwide, across ideology and political party, were disgusted by Walsh’s comments in the video.
I, too, was disgusted. I’ve long admired Tammy Duckworth. I’ve admired her since first learning her story. I even wrote about her in 2006 on the heels of her first Illinois Congressional campaign and subsequent defeat by Republican Peter Roskam – another non-veteran.
Army Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester didn't think twice when a group of Iraqi insurgents ambushed her convoy outside Baghdadfive years ago. She scrambled to the side of the road, grabbed her rifle and grenades and unleashed an assault to help fend off the attack.
"When we first started taking fire, I just looked to the right and saw seven or eight guys shooting back at us. Muzzle flashes," said Hester, a military police officer with the Kentucky National Guard.
She took down three insurgents before the fight subsided, in a gallant showing that later earned her the Silver Star; the third highest military award for valor in the face of the enemy. She was the first woman to receive the commendation since World War II.
But while thousands of women like Hester face the dangers of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan every day, serving as aviators, military police, intelligence and civil affairs officers, they remain technically barred from infantry units that specialize in close combat with the enemy on the ground.
Dear Dr. Whitley: It has come to my attention that you recently ignored a subpoena to appear before a Military Sexual Assault Committee hearing last month in Washington D.C., spearheaded by Rep. John Tierney and Rep. Henry Waxman. You Dr. Whitley are the head of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) for the military are you not? By ignoring this subpoena, you showed a total disregard for your position and outright disrespect to all women who have served and are serving in the military today.
A fellow service member attacked me in my dorm room, while on active duty in 1987. I was not fully raped. He entered my room with a master key and was rubbing his hand over and inside my genitals when I woke up. I turned on my bedside light and said, “What the f*** is going on here?” I saw him for a brief second. He looked like an Airman from the Administrative Office on base. Luckily for me he ran out of the room. I woke the next day, disoriented, and afraid to tell anyone what had happened. I kept quiet. For two weeks I slept with the dresser up against the door. And then he raped someone. She didn’t wake up in time. She didn’t yell loud enough. Maybe, she didn’t have the same bedside light as me but after hearing of her attack and seeing my perpetrator, I came forward and told my story.
At the time there was no reporting agency like SAPRO. I just happened to have an excellent female boss, a woman named Senior Master Sergeant (SMSgt) Beva Gathje. She gently guided me through the awful court process. I say awful because most victims of sexual assault would rather eat glass than have to recount their story time and time again to a strangely titillated, slightly doubting and strongly provoked audience. SMSgt Gathje made sure that I had everything I needed. She even offered counseling. I instantly denied it, knowing it would cost me my security clearance and I would never be able to perform the job I dearly loved as an Intelligence Analyst. The Airman was removed from the base and to this day I don’t know what became of him.