CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Hoffman Estates Democrat Tammy Duckworth used her short time on the national stage Tuesday to tell Democratic National Committee delegates her story of military service and injury and her perspective as an Asian-American woman and veteran.
Duckworth, in her remarks, only briefly mentioned her own nationally watched congressional campaign in the 8th District against Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry, instead focusing her attention on President Barack Obama.
She urged delegates to unite in the same way her fellow soldiers did when the Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting was attacked in 2004 in Iraq, leading to the loss of both her legs.
"In that moment, my survival -- and the survival of my entire crew -- depended on all of us pulling together," she said.
"And even though they were wounded themselves, and insurgents were nearby, they simply refused to leave a fallen comrade behind. Their heroism is why I'm alive today," she added, prompting chants of "U-S-A" from the convention floor.
Duckworth's very attendance at the convention drew a rebuke from Walsh, who has tried to portray Duckworth as a political insider. Duckworth worked until last year in the Obama administration as an assistant secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Ms. Duckworth has continued to show more interest in rubbing elbows with big name party insiders than staying home and tackling the tough issues facing voters in the district," Walsh said in a statement.
Duckworth has celebrated those political ties instead of running from them. She says the relationships she gained while working in both the state and federal veteran's departments will be valuable if she is elected.
Duckworth's support for Obama bolsters Democrats' hope to get strong backing from both women and minorities in November. The beginning of her speech Tuesday focused on her family's longtime record of military service and on her humble beginnings.
"My choice is to do what my family did when times were hard -- roll up our sleeves and get to work," she said. "My choice is to do what my crew did for me in a dusty field in Iraq."
Delegate Cristina Castro of Elgin, a resident of the 8th District which Duckworth wants to represent, said other veterans can relate to her story.
"Here you have someone who rises in the face of adversity," Castro said. "That's an inspiring story."
Duckworth is among a handful of Illinois speakers addressing the delegates in Charlotte -- including Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. However, she is the only one of the five Democratic Illinois candidates for Congress scheduled to speak from the convention floor.