When Tammy Duckworth was shot down by insurgents while piloting a helicopter over Iraq in 2004, her life came into the hands of the lowest-ranking member of her crew, the door gunner.
She was vulnerable. Bleeding to death only 400 yards away from the bad guys.
The gunner, a young man from Peoria, IL, took his weapon and stumbled toward the insurgents.
“He was shot, he was bleeding, he was going into shock, but he stood his ground,” said Duckworth, who spoke to delegates Tuesday at the IAM’s Grand Lodge Convention in Chicago.
He saved her life.
Now a U.S. Representative from Illinois’ 8th congressional district, Duckworth looks back on that day often. She’s a double amputee because of it.
The young man, who came from a Caterpillar family, protected her when she was at her weakest.
“You have been there, many of you, in previous fights protecting the vulnerable,” said Duckworth, a 23-year Army veteran.
Union organizers, Duckworth said, fight for the downtrodden. They stand up to corporate executives and dirty politicians.
“Just remember, you may not always know what you’re doing and you may be scared and you may be going into shock a little bit—but you remember my door gunner and you say to yourself, ‘Not today. You do not get through me, not as long as I’m here,’” said Duckworth.
Duckworth, who is running for U.S. Senate, has stood with the IAM and working people. She is adamantly against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and has consistently fought for training and apprenticeship programs.
She respects what unions do for American workers.
“You folks are the backbone of why this is the greatest nation on the face of the Earth,” said Duckworth. “You are the people who build the things that build this nation that make us the strongest nation on the face of the Earth. It’s your union and unions like yours that help ensure our workers receive the wages, benefits and protections they deserve. This is how our families got stronger, it’s how our country gets stronger.”