Who am I?
In 2003, I was working for Rotary International on a project to provide wheelchairs for the disabled in developing countries. As a Captain in the National Guard, I was mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployed in 2004.
I was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot, and I became one of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq. On November 12th, 2004 my helicopter was hit by an RPG, and I lost both legs and part of the use of my right arm in the explosion. I was awarded the Purple Heart for my combat injuries.
During my recovery at Walter Reed, I was one of the highest-ranking amputees and became an advocate for my fellow soldiers. I was asked to testify before Congress on behalf of my fellow wounded Vets and recruited to run for the House of Representatives. As a candidate, I spoke out early and often against the decision to go to war in Iraq and worked hard to support candidates up and down the ballot in my district.
After losing a close race, I continued to serve in the National Guard and became Director of Illinois' Department of Veterans' Affairs. There, I was proud to implement many first in the nation programs to address Post Traumatic Stress, improve traumatic brain injury screening and encourage hiring of Veterans through tax credits.
In 2009, I was nominated by President Obama to be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs, where I worked hard to improve the standard of care for Vets. I oversaw VA's effort to end Veteran homelessness and lead initiatives for female Vets and increased accessibility and accountability with the new Office of Online Communications.
Why am I running?
Last spring, I found myself sitting in my office at VA as the government shutdown loomed. It was my job to get the word out to tens of thousands of federal employees that their jobs were "non-essential," and to hundreds of thousands of Veterans that they wouldn't be able to access anything more than the most critical care at VA facilities. I loved my job, and I loved serving my fellow Veterans. But that's when I knew that I had to leave it behind and run for Congress.
Why? Because my district is represented by Tea Party darling Joe Walsh. You've seen him on TV, screaming at constituents and calling the President "irrelevant." You've heard the stories about his ex-wife suing him for more than $100,000 in child support she says he never paid. He's part of the problem in Washington - more worried about making a scene than about getting our economy back on track and moving our country forward.
I should have died when my helicopter was shot down in Iraq. I'm only here because my buddies came back one last time to pull me out when they thought I was already gone. Every day I have to be worthy of that sacrifice.
This is bonus time for me. And so I can stick to what I believe in, and ask the tough questions because my worst day in Washington is never going to be as bad as my worst day in Iraq.
My first priority is to regrow our economy with a combination of short-term programs to prime the pump and longer-term policy changes to establish the environment for economic recovery and return to growth. Top short-term initiatives that I will support include infrastructure investment in transportation, schools, communications and utilities. Long-term initiatives include job training and business tax credits for research, alternative energy and businesses that hire returning Veterans and those who have been unemployed for more than 6 months.
I also want to address the extreme rancor and partisanship in politics that have pushed our government to the brink of failure. Im proud to have served and sacrificed for our nation, but in Congress today I dont see a lot of courage or selflessness. In Congress, first and foremost, I will stand up for our values and be a voice calling for reason in search of practical solutions to our most pressing problems. I will work with anyone who loves this country as much as I do to get us moving forward again.
My DFA Values
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My Campaign is People Powered!
I'm honored that more than 7,000 people have contributed to my campaign, and that 88% of their contributions have been $100 or less.
And I'm proud that our volunteers are talking to more than 1,000 voters in our district every week, asking for their support and building an organization that can fight back against Congressman Joe Walsh and his Tea Party friends.
Our newest intern drove 2012 miles (really!) from his home in California to work for our campaign, and nearly a dozen supporters were ready to offer him a room or spare bed. That's the kind of campaign I want to have, and the spirit I want to take to Washington on behalf of the people of the 8th District.