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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 1:42 p.m., Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tammy Duckworth's husband being deployed to Iraq

Chicago Tribune


Tammy Duckworth and her husband, Brian Bowlsbey, watched early returns on election night, Nov. 7, 2006. Duckworth, running as a Democrat in suburban Chicago, lost to Republican Peter Roskam for the seat in Illinois' 6th Congressional District.

Associated Press

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CHICAGO — The husband of Tammy Duckworth is being deployed to Iraq, where his wife lost her legs in a helicopter crash before making a bid for Congress.

Brian Bowlsbey, 39, a longtime Illinois Guardsman, has not been sent there previously.

Although he did not volunteer for the mission, Bowlsbey, a major who was recently assigned to a new unit, said he did not consider seeking an exemption to allow him to remain with his wife.

"It's not something that we're really eager to do, but it's part of the job and we've trained for it for 19 years," he said yesterday, noting that he long ago fulfilled his requirement of four years of service as an officer. "If you believe in the United States you stay in and you keep doing it and you accept the risk."

Duckworth, who was raised on O'ahu, is a 1985 graduate of McKinley High School. She is currently director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs.

While he is gone, the couple will pay someone to shovel the snow and mow the lawns, Bowlsbey said. Duckworth drives a pickup truck customized to be hand-controlled.

"I knew, sooner or later, there just aren't that many (eligible) people and I knew I'm one of the only ones who haven't been and some of the Guard have been twice," he said. "It's going to be difficult and we've done some planning, although I want to emphasize, everyone has these life issues, everyone that deploys has them."

Bowlsbey is part of a Illinois state transportation unit and will focus on advance planning and logistics. He will leave for Kuwait for training at the end of March and does not know when he will return. Most Guardsmen serve about 12 months in Iraq, he said.

A rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter Duckworth, also a National Guard major, was co-piloting in November 2004. As she continued to rehabilitate from her injuries a year later, she entered the campaign for the west suburban 6th District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., as a Democrat. She lost to Republican Peter Roskam.

Shortly after the election, Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed her to head the state's veterans' affairs department. Duckworth continues to serve in the Guard, inspecting the safety of ground and air units. She was traveling on business and unavailable to comment Wednesday.

During the campaign, Duckworth criticized the Iraq invasion as a distraction from pursuing the al-Qaida terrorists that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, but said she would head back if deployed again. Bowlsbey declined to comment on the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq.

"There's 150,000 soldiers in Iraq that need somebody to do this job that I'm being asked to do, so that's the mission I've got to do," Bowlsbey said. "There's no partisan thought that would interfere with me doing that."