Heard on the Hill

Duckworth Leads Capital Challenge Wheelchair Team to Keep Promise to Herself

Illinois Democrat pledged to do more after losing legs in Iraq

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth competed in her first marathon four years after losing her legs in Iraq. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Serving as captain of the wheelchair team in the 36th annual ACLI Capital Challenge on Wednesday is part of a pledge that Sen. Tammy Duckworth made to herself after losing her legs while serving in Iraq.

“When I was in the hospital, I made a promise to do more than I could before I was wounded,” the Illinois Democrat said. “My recovery goal wasn’t just to get by — it was to go beyond what I thought I could ever do.”

“That’s why it’s important for me to participate in events like this one and it’s why I’ve done four marathons,” she said.

[Cotton Runs Away From Colleagues Again in 3-Mile Race]

Duckworth competed in her first Chicago Marathon just four years after losing her legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2004. She completed it in 2 hours, 26 minutes and 31 seconds, the Chicago Tribune reported.

She has since competed in three more Chicago marathons.

The ACLI Capital Challenge’s cause is also close to the senator’s heart — the 3-mile run at Anacostia Park raises money for the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, which pairs guide dogs with people with disabilities, often war veterans.

“Guide dogs help countless Wounded Warriors and people with disabilities live fulfilling lives with independence and dignity,” said Duckworth, who served in the National Guard from 1996 to 2014. “I’m proud to support a cause that is life changing for so many people across our country.”

Per the challenge entry list, staff members on Duckworth’s team include analyst Leif Anderson, deputy press secretary Nichola Greenblatt, senior community outreach coordinator Maurice Green, and Visraant Iyer.

Another team captain, Sen. Tom Cotton, is intent on again being the fastest member of Congress — as he has been the last four years.

The Arkansas Republican has a five-month-old baby at home, so he has not had as much free time to train for this year’s run.

“He’s hopeful the time he’s spent chasing after his two-year-old toddler has kept him in good enough shape to make a strong showing,” said Caroline Rabbitt, Cotton’s communications director.

The challenge’s cause is also important to the senator, who served in the Army for five years.

“They allow countless individuals to lead more meaningful and productive lives,” Rabbitt said. “In particular, Sen. Cotton has seen the impact guide dogs like the ones provided by Fidelco have helped some of our wounded warriors and he’s happy to help support this important organization.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher, the only freshman captain, is worth keeping an eye on this year as a possible challenger for Cotton’ fastest lawmaker title.

The 33-year-old Wisconsin Republican spent seven years in the Marines.

Other lawmaker captains this year include Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and John Cornyn, R-Texas and Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Susan A. Davis, D-Calif., Tom Reed, R-N.Y., Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., Tom Graves, R-Ga., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Tim Walz, D-Minn., Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.