Tammy Duckworth

L. Tammy Duckworth will serve as the keynote speaker at the Women with Wings event Saturday, June 25, at Chanute Air Museum.


L. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates, nominated by President Obama to serve as the Department of Veterans Affairs assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, will be the featured speaker at Women with Wings.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 25, at Chanute Air Museum, Rantoul.

Duckworth, who previously  served as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, is a major in the Illinois National Guard.

She has overcome obstacles to reach her role. During a 2004 mission in Iraq, the Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Duckworth lost both of her legs and partial use of one arm.

For her actions, she received the Purple Heart, the Air Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Duckworth is a strong advocate of disability rights and veterans.

She was the Democratic candidate for Illinois 6th Congressional District in 2006. She received the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award the following year and was named the 2008 Disabled Veteran of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans.

Obama selected her to deliver the presidential campaign’s key address on veterans’ rights at the Democratic National Convention.

Duckworth has declined her Army medical retirement to continue to serve in the National Guard. She completed the Chicago Marathon in 2008 and 2009, fulfilling a promise she made while recuperating from her war wounds at Walter Reed Hospital.

Jim Eldridge, air museum education director, said everyone involved with the event is “pretty excited” that Duckworth has agreed to attend.

Duckworth will speak at 9:30 a.m.

Women with Wings will be filled with activities for and about women in aviation. But Eldridge said the day isn’t just for women. Everyone is welcome to attend the free event.

Mary Ohmitt of Urbana, a hot air balloonist, will give a demonstration on ballooning. She will fully inflate a balloon, but it won’t be flown.

Erin Tiler from the U of I Institute of Aviation, which is co-sponsoring the event with the air museum, will present a session on the history of women in aviation.

A panel of aviation professionals will also speak.

The head flight nurse from Carle Foundation Hospital will be present with the Air Life medivac helicopter.

Also present will be the president of the Chicago chapter of Women in Aviation who flies for FedEx.

A session on Airplane 101 will be presented during the afternoon.

The Aviation Institute will have two Piper Archer planes, which are used for instruction, on hand to demonstrate the parts of an airplane.

Flights will also be available for a fee. Door prizes will be awarded for two free plane rides. Eldridge said another door prize is an hour’s simulator time at Frasca Field, Urbana.

There will be a session to put together a balsa wood plane and fly it. A fee will be charged for those who wish to participate in that event.

Lunch will also be available for a nominal cost.

“It will be a very busy day,” Eldridge said, “with lots of things to do.