They’ve been married since 1993. Mr. Bowlsbey now works as an info expertise marketing consultant.

Although Ms. Duckworth moved to Illinois to pursue a doctorate, she went via flight college and entered the Illinois Nationwide Guard in 1996.

Earlier than her deployment eight years later, Ms. Duckworth had been working at Rotary Worldwide, serving to to handle workplaces in its Asia-Pacific area. When the Guard sought out commissioned officers for a mission to Iraq, she volunteered, arriving in March 2004. (Ms. Duckworth has mentioned she all the time believed the Bush administration “began this struggle for themselves,” however as a soldier, “you retain your private opinions to your self.”)

Ms. Duckworth spent a lot of her time there inside an operations heart, coordinating missions. She flew herself about twice per week.

Her final waking day in Iraq, Nov. 12, 2004, started unremarkably. Ms. Duckworth’s crew was conducting “taxi service,” in her telling: shuttling folks and provides, with a cease at a base in Baghdad to accumulate Christmas ornaments.

She had been on the controls all day. A colleague, Dan Milberg, playfully known as her a “stick pig,” requesting to take the lead on a remaining flight. She obliged.

They had been about 10 minutes from their vacation spot when an explosion scorched via the appropriate facet of the cockpit, the place Ms. Duckworth sat:

A rocket-propelled grenade. A fireball blast at her decrease physique.

She doesn’t keep in mind feeling ache instantly. She does keep in mind the black smoke — and an plane all of a sudden impervious to her prompts. By this level, Ms. Duckworth discovered later, she had no ft.

Mr. Milberg was in a position to land on a plot of open woods. Ms. Duckworth, on the cusp of shedding consciousness, has retained a snapshot from the haze of her rescue: a cluster of tall grass poking via the bottom of the Black Hawk. She puzzled the way it had gotten there.

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