John Hojek, second-year graduate student and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, welcomes you to SSA.
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth is an Iraq War Veteran, Purple Heart recipient and former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who was among the first handful of Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years before retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2014. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after representing Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for two terms.
In 2004, Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. On November 12, 2004, her helicopter was hit by an RPG and she lost her legs and partial use of her right arm. Senator Duckworth spent the next year recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she quickly became an advocate for her fellow Soldiers. After she recovered, she became Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, where she helped create a tax credit for employers that hire Veterans, established a first-in-the-nation 24/7 Veterans crisis hotline and developed innovative programs to improve Veterans’ access to housing and health care.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Duckworth as an Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs, where she coordinated a joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help end Veteran homelessness, worked to address the unique challenges faced by female as well as Native American Veterans and created the Office of Online Communications to improve the VA’s accessibility, especially among young Veterans.
In the U.S. House, Duckworth served on the Armed Services Committee and was an advocate for working families and job creation, introducing bills like her bipartisan Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act to ensure new mothers have access to safe, clean and accessible lactation rooms when traveling through airports, which is now law. She helped lead passage of the bipartisan Clay Hunt SAV Act, which enhanced efforts to track and reduce Veteran suicides. She also passed the Troop Talent Act to help returning Veterans find jobs in the private sector and worked to cut waste and fraud at the Pentagon and throughout government, including passing a
common-sense provision that was projected to save taxpayers $4 billion by reducing redundancy in military uniforms.
In the U.S. Senate, Duckworth advocates for practical, common-sense solutions needed to move our state and country forward like rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, protecting Illinoisans from lead poisoning, growing manufacturing jobs while supporting minority-owned small businesses, investing in communities that have been ignored for too long and making college more affordable for all Americans. She co-founded the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus and also continues her lifelong mission of supporting, protecting and keeping the promises we’ve made to our Veterans as well as ensuring that we stand fully behind the troops our nation sends into danger overseas. In 2018, after Duckworth became the first Senator to give birth while serving in office, she sent a message to working families across the country about the value of family-friendly policies by securing a historic rules change that allows Senators to bring their infant children onto the Senate floor.
Senator Duckworth serves on several influential committees that give her an important platform to advocate for Illinois’s working families and entrepreneurs: the Armed Services Committee; the Environment & Public Works Committee; the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee; and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. The first Senate bill she introduced—which supports Illinois jobs by helping prevent bureaucratic delays in infrastructure projects—became law in record time. As a result of her achievements, Duckworth was ranked as a "highly effective lawmaker" and as the most effective freshman Democratic Senator in the 115th Congress by the Center for Effective Lawmaking.
Duckworth is fluent in Thai and Indonesian. She attended college at the University of Hawaii and earned a Master of Arts in International Affairs from the George Washington University. Following graduation, Duckworth moved to Illinois and began pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science at Northern Illinois University and later worked for Rotary International. To this day, the
Senator volunteers at local food pantries and participates in community service projects in her free time.
Senator Duckworth and her husband Bryan are the proud parents of two daughters, Abigail and Maile.
Leora Hudak, MA, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Illinois. Currently, she works at the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) as the Staff Wellbeing & Mental Health Specialist focused on Latin America and the US-Mexico border region. She is a part-time lecturer at the University of Chicago SSA, teaching a course titled “Clinical Practice with Survivors of Torture and Political Violence”, and she is the Field Consultant to the Global Social Development Practice Program at SSA. Leora has worked as a psychotherapist for people arriving to the US as refugees and asylum-seekers, and she provides expert psychological evaluations for asylum cases in the US. Leora has published scholarly research and practical toolkits on best practices providing medical and mental health services to refugees and asylum seekers, and she has provided training nationally to mental health and social service providers. Currently, Leora’s work focuses on secondary trauma support and resilience-building for front-line workers along the US-Mexico border, and the development of service delivery models for migrant populations in the border region. Leora served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chongqing, China, was a University of Chicago Posen Human Rights Fellow in Cartagena, Colombia, and has worked with communities impacted by violence in Latin America. Leora holds a masters in clinical social work and international social welfare from the University of Chicago SSA and a bachelors in Spanish from Denison University.
- Northwood, A., Vukovich, M.M., Beckman, A., Walter, J.P., Josiah, N., Hudak, L., . . . (2020). Intensive psychotherapy and case management for Karen refugees with Major Depression in primary care: a pragmatic randomized control trial, BCM Family Practice, 10.21203/rs.2.13216/v2
- Center for Victims of Torture. (2019). Improving well-being for refugees in primary care: A toolkit for providers. St. Paul, MN: Center for Victims of Torture. Retrieved from https://healtorture.org/content/improving-well-being-refugees-primary-care-toolkit-providers-0
- Esala, J., Hudak, L., Eaton, A., & Vukovich, M. (2018). Integrated behavioral health care for Karen refugees: A qualitative exploration of active ingredients, International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, 14.2, 133-145, https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-10-2017-0043
- Heartland Alliance International. (2016). Trauma of a generation: The urgent need for specialized mental health solutions in Central America’s Northern Triangle. Chicago, IL: Heartland Alliance International, https://www.heartlandalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Trauma-of-a-Generation_HAI-2016.09.pdf
Alfredo González is an Assistant Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Dr. González received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011 and M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 2019. His book manuscript is entitled Deporting Veterans: Race, Citizenship, and Non-Citizen Service Members in the Modern U.S. Military. The manuscript explores the historical transactional development of exchanging legal citizenship to immigrants that provide their service in the U.S. military, otherwise known as citizenship-for-service. In particular, the book manuscript is concerned with the factors that increased the barriers for non-citizens, particularly Mexican immigrants, at attaining legal citizenship in exchange for their military service. Dr. González is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps infantry and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003 to 2007.
Carlos Luna was born in Mexico City, Mexico. When he was three years-old, his father finished his enlistment as a US Marine and called for Carlos and his mother to join him in Chicago. Carlos served in the US Navy from 2004-2009 as an Aviation Electronics Technician (AT); troubleshooting and maintaining avionics equipment on F/A-18 fighter jets.
He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from DePaul University, Chicago in 2012. After which he worked as a Mental Health Professional with at-risk youth in various capacities and where the need for social justice became most salient to him. He went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Community Psychology from DePaul University, Chicago in June 2016, learning to troubleshoot and maintain systems in our environment; researching topics related to resilience, mentoring, environmental stressors and identity. He is a certified Peer Support Specialist through the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and certified as a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) through the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers (NACVSO).
In 2017, Mr. Luna co-founded the only trauma-informed peer support program for veterans detained in the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC) in Chicago. He serves as President of a Chicago-based council of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Green Card Veterans, to influence appropriate policy by changing the narrative regarding noncitizen US service members, veterans and their families exiled through deportation.
Miguel Perez Jr. is an Arrmy veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and had been in the U.S. since age 8 has been deported to Mexico because of a 2008 felony conviction. He says he mistakenly thought he became a U.S. citizen when he took an oath to protect the nation. Perez was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers after he served half of a 15-year prison sentence for a nonviolent drug charge.
Hector Barajas is a deported veteran who was granted a full pardon in 2017 by California Governor Jerry Brown. Barajas enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1995, served in the 82nd Airborne, and was honorably discharged in 2001. In 2002, Barajas pleaded no contest to a felony conviction. After serving his sentence and another year in detention, Barajas was deported to Tijuana, Mexico in 2005. While in exile, he founded the Bunker: Deported Veterans Support House, which provides housing, social services, and access to legal service networks for deported veterans.