The Hill's 25 Women to Watch: Page 9 of 26

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TULSI GABBARD

HAWAII CANDIDATE FOR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Tulsi Gabbard has already experienced a lot of firsts.

At 21, she became the youngest person ever elected to Hawaii’s Legislature. Two years later, she became the state’s first elected official to resign and go to war when she headed to Iraq with her fellow soldiers from the Army’s 29th Brigade, forfeiting what would’ve been an easy reelection to the Statehouse.

She returned and enrolled in the Accelerated Officer Candidate School in Alabama and became the first female student to receive the Distinguished Honor Graduate award in the school’s half-century history. Shortly after, at the end of her second tour of duty in the Middle East, she was the first woman ever to receive an award from the Kuwaiti Guards.

And now the 31-year-old is running to become the first Hindu-American and one of the first female combat veterans elected to Congress. Though her candidacy was a long shot in the primary, she looks to be the favorite for the general election.

Born in American Samoa, Gabbard moved with her family to Hawaii when she was 2 years old. She grew up helping with the family businesses and went on to earn an international business degree at Hawaii Pacific University. 

Gabbard says her experience in the military has given her the skills she’ll need in Congress, along with a unique perspective on veterans’ issues that comes from being one of the first females in combat.

“At a practical level, [in the military] I learned to identify a problem, identify the solution and how to determine the best possible course of action to get there,” she told The Hill.

Gabbard was tapped to speak at the Democratic National Convention alongside other rising female Democratic stars as well as more established ones. The speech was her biggest platform yet, but she began it with a familiar greeting that she might be saying a lot more in the coming months: “Aloha!” 

— Alexandra Jaffe

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