WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 18, 2010) -- The Army Women's Foundation inducted two new members into its hall of fame Wednesday following the Army Women in Transition Symposium on Capitol Hill.
L. Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught were nominated for the honor because of their "exceptional contributions to women in the military."
Duckworth, also a major in the National Guard and UH-60 Black Hawk pilot, lost the lower half of both of her legs and injured her right arm in 2004 when her aircraft was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq. She has since served as the director of the Illinois VA, run for Congress, and been appointed by President Obama to serve the VA at a national level.
Vaught, president of the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc., helped raise $22.5 million to build the Women's Memorial in Washington, D.C., at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. Vaught was one of the only non-nurse women to deploy to Vietnam and the first woman in her field to reach the rank of general.
She called being recognized alongside a true hero like Duckworth a "double honor."
"This is really an award that's not just for me, but for them as well," Duckworth said on behalf of all the Army women.
Retired Maj. Gen. Dee Ann McWilliams presented Duckworth a crystal trophy and said that her job as a presenter and the choice to honor Duckworth was simple.
"This presentation is easy," McWilliams said. "I only have to say her name and everyone knows why the Army Foundation would select the honorable Tammy Duckworth for its hall of fame ... She's shown the world, in combat, that gender is not an issue."
"For your visible courage and strength of character during your journey from the battlefields of Iraq to the halls of power in our nation's capital, we're honored to induct you into the Army Women's hall of fame," said McWilliams.
Duckworth was one of the first female helicopter pilots when the field opened up to women, and often found herself as the only woman in her unit. She thanked her male Army mentors who didn't view her gender as an indicator of her ability.
"I didn't get to where I got on my own," Duckworth said.
Duckworth redirected the honor to military women like one of her friends, Chief Warrant Officer Lee Lane, a fellow helicopter pilot. Duckworth said Lane volunteered to fly with her to Germany after her helicopter was shot down, so that Duckworth wouldn't be disoriented when she woke up.
Duckworth called Lane an "American fighting woman," because even though she broke down with worry for Duckworth after her surgery, Lane flew back to Iraq and within 48 hours was piloting again.
"She was able to be herself and be there for a friend, but could also go back and fly combat missions," Duckworth said, praising her friend's strength.
Also present was CBS news correspondent Kimberly Dozier, who was injured in a 2006 bombing that killed two of her CBS team members, a translator and the Army captain she was filming.
The symposium and panel discussions focused on three transitional topics that apply to all military members and their future after serving: pursuing further education, a new career, and breaking into the corporate world. The panels featured retired military members who had excelled in each of the three areas.
Also awarded at the symposium were three educational scholarships given to military women in honor of the three female Soldiers who were killed in the 2009 Fort Hood shootings.
This second annual symposium was scheduled for March to fall in conjunction with Women's History Month.