Back to Iraq 'on my own terms': Sen. Duckworth shares her hopes, emotions after trip

  • Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine took this photo last week of Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates looking down as a helicopter taking their delegation to Taji, Iraq, circled the spot where she was shot down 15 years ago.

    Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine took this photo last week of Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates looking down as a helicopter taking their delegation to Taji, Iraq, circled the spot where she was shot down 15 years ago. Courtesy of Sen. Angus King

  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth meets with U.S. troops in Iraq last week, 15 years after the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting there was shot down by enemy fire.

    Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth meets with U.S. troops in Iraq last week, 15 years after the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting there was shot down by enemy fire. Courtesy of U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth

  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth meets with U.S. troops in Iraq last week, 15 years after the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting there was shot down by enemy fire.

    Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth meets with U.S. troops in Iraq last week, 15 years after the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting there was shot down by enemy fire. Courtesy of U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth

  • Duckworth, while serving with the Illinois Army National Guard, sits in a helicopter during her tour of duty in Iraq. In November 2004, Duckworth lost both legs when the helicopter she was in was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade on a mission near Baghdad.

    Duckworth, while serving with the Illinois Army National Guard, sits in a helicopter during her tour of duty in Iraq. In November 2004, Duckworth lost both legs when the helicopter she was in was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade on a mission near Baghdad. Courtesy of Tammy Duckworth

 
 
Updated 4/30/2019 7:01 PM

Fifteen years after losing her legs when her Blackhawk helicopter was shot down over Iraq, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth traveled back to the Middle Eastern nation last week for what she described Tuesday as a practical fact-finding mission and emotional return.

"It's something I've wanted to do since I was wounded," the Hoffman Estates Democrat said. "I wanted to go back to leave on my own terms."

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Though she's anticipated a return journey for years, Duckworth said she found herself less emotional about it than expected. The major exception was when the former U.S. Army pilot found herself a passenger on a helicopter and feeling she was sitting in the wrong seat.

Accompanied by Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, Duckworth and her delegation met with Iraqi leaders, Kurdish leaders and U.S. troops to discuss their current mission and goals, and the status of ISIS.

While ISIS has been forced out of all the Iraqi territory it once held, Duckworth believes its threat may now be even more insidious because there is no specific place to direct military action against it.

That, she said, is the main reason Iraq and its allies must now make a concerted effort to build up its security, economy, outreach to its citizens and everything else necessary to establish a strong and independent nation.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She hopes last week's visit by her and her Senate colleagues convinces Iraqi leaders that the U.S. is dedicated to that goal.

Duckworth said she still recognizes the conditions for a potential return of ISIS. The last thing she wants, she said, is the current momentum to be reversed to the extent that sending more U.S. troops back to Iraq is necessary.

"I spilled my blood here, too, and I want you to be successful," Duckworth said she told them. "Understand that this commitment was real."

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