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An Amputee's Long Walk Back to Flight Duty

In November 2004, a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter Maj. Tammy Duckworth was piloting in Iraq. The grenade struck right near Duckworth's legs; both had to be amputated.

In civilian life, Duckworth manages programs for Rotary International and travels to Asia and around the world. When she joined the Illinois National Guard, she signed up to be a pilot because, she says, that's where a woman had the best chance to go into combat.

Despite her injury, Duckworth says she's determined to fly again.

"From the time I woke up, I knew I wanted to fly again," Duckworth says. "I knew I wanted to serve, finish my time in the military as a National Guardsman. And then also to get back in the cockpit. I want the decision to not fly or not serve to be mine and not the decision of the guy who fired the RPG at me."

But first she has to learn how to walk. NPR's Joseph Shapiro joined Duckworth in February as she took her first steps on her new prosthetic legs.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joseph Shapiro is a NPR News Investigations correspondent.

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