Bryan Bowlsbey has been married to Senator Tammy Duckworth for nearly three decades and the couple has two daughters. Like his wife, Bowlsbey served in the National Guard and was deployed to the Middle East.
According to Politico, the Biden campaign took a closer look at Duckworth after she had a public clash with Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson. He called her a “moron” and a “fraud” for suggesting there should be a dialogue about removing statues of slave-owning founding fathers. Duckworth responded that Carlson should “walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America.” Duckworth was severely injured in a helicopter crash while serving in Iraq in 2004 and wears prosthetic legs.
In interviews with CSPAN in 2005 and 2008, Bowlsbey explained that after his wife’s injury, friends and fellow Army veterans stepped up to remodel their Illinois home. Bowlsbey said they removed walls and replaced carpet with tile and hard floors to ensure Duckworth could get around without any problems, especially for instances when she needed a wheelchair. Bowlsbey said he also built a dock inside the garage so she could wheel herself inside without help.
Here’s what you need to know about Duckworth’s husband:
1. Bowlsbey Was a Major In the Illinois National Guard & Met Duckworth When They Were Both ROTC Cadets
Bowlsbey and Duckworth were ROTC cadets together at George Washington University. But their relationship had a rocky start. Duckworth told CSPAN in 2005 that Bowlsbey “made a comment that I felt was derogatory about the role of women in the Army. But he came over and apologized very nicely and then helped me clean my M16.” The couple tied the knot in 1993.
Bowlsbey began his military career in the late 1980s. During that interview with CSPAN, he explained that from the age of 20, he knew there was a risk of being killed overseas. He and Duckworth said they both understood that risk but Bowlsbey added that being home while his wife was deployed was not a scenario he had ever envisioned until it actually happened.
Bowlsbey has served in Iraq and Kuwait. According to the Department of Defense, both Bowlsbey and Duckworth were Majors in the Army National Guard. Both have since retired from the National Guard. Bowlsbey described himself on Facebook as a “retired soldier.”
2. Bowlsbey Works as an Information Technology Specialist & Described Himself On Facebook as a ‘Computer Geek’
Bowlsbey studied military history at the University of Maryland, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also has a master’s degree in IT Management from Webster University.
Bowlsbey’s professional career has included working as an engineering lead for the Army National Guard and managing security services for AT&T. He also helped to design an internal corporate network for a cable and internet company. The most recent title listed on his LinkedIn profile is “JRSS Migration Manager” for a computer support company called VAE, Inc. He described himself on Facebook as a “computer geek.”
Bowlsbey and Duckworth have also both maintained commercial pilot licenses, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Bowlsbey’s most recent license was issued in 2014 and Duckworth’s in March 2020.
3. Bowlsbey Was Supportive of His Wife’s Decision to Run For Congress But Was Deployed During Her First Campaign
Duckworth was inspired to run for Congress by Senator Dick Durbin, who has been representing Illinois in the Senate since 1997. She launched an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the House of Representatives in 2006.
Bowlsbey explained to CSPAN in 2008 that he was supportive of his wife’s decision to get into politics, although he initially had been expecting some relaxation after Duckworth was able to return home to Illinois. Duckworth underwent dozens of surgeries after her injury in Iraq and spent six months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering and learning how to use the prosthetic legs.
Bowlsbey explained that the intense demands of a congressional campaign turned out to be a blessing in disguise because he was overseas for part of it. Bowlsbey told CSPAN he was thankful Duckworth had something to focus on while he was deployed so that she wouldn’t worry about him all the time.
“I’m glad she worked 60 to 70 hour weeks while I was gone because I did that gig. You sit there on the couch and the house is empty and there’s no one here but you and your loved one is overseas,” Bowlsbey explained. “You’re not sure exactly what’s going on over there. I mean, I had a fairly good idea because I’m Army as well but you know, I’m glad she was able to work 60-70 hour weeks because it just keeps your mind off the ‘what could be’ kind of scenarios.”
Duckworth added the campaign also served as great physical therapy. She said it gave her the opportunity to get used to walking around using the prosthetics. Duckworth lost the 2006 election but won in 2012. She served two terms in the House before she was elected to the Senate in 2016.
4. The Couple Struggled With Fertility For Nearly a Decade Before Having Their Two Daughters
Bowlsbey and Duckworth wanted to become parents after she recovered from the injuries sustained in Iraq. But the journey was much more difficult than they anticipated. In a 2018 interview with Vogue, Duckworth explained that a Veterans Affairs-recommended fertility doctor told her that the regular X-rays she had to get at Walter Reed may have inhibited her ability to conceive naturally.
After nearly a decade of trying to get pregnant, Duckworth and Bowlsbey considered adoption before a friend recommended one more fertility doctor in Chicago who ultimately made the difference. She told the magazine that she and Bowlsbey had their first child thanks to in vitro fertilization.
Their daughter Abigail O’kalani was born on November 18, 2014, just two weeks after Duckworth won re-election in the House of Representatives.
Their second daughter, Maile Pearl, arrived in April 2018. Duckworth explained in a social media post that their daughter’s middle name was inspired by Bowlsbey’s great-aunt, Pearl Bowlsbey Johnson, who served as an Army nurse during WWII.
Maile’s arrival made Duckworth the first senator to give birth while in office. She was also the first infant allowed on the Senate floor after the chamber voted unanimously to change the rules. Duckworth cast a vote 10 days after giving birth and Maile was with her at the time. Duckworth even tweeted an image of the special outfit she had picked out for her daughter for the occasion.
5. Bowlsbey Bought a House In Virginia After Duckworth Was Elected to the Senate
Bowlsbey is originally from Hoffman Estates, a suburb of Chicago, according to his Facebook page. He and Duckworth bought their house there in 2002, according to a search of online property records.
But Duckworth and Bowlsbey now also have a local place to call home when Congress is in session. Fairfax County property records show Bowlsbey purchased a 6-bedroom house in McLean, Virginia, a few months after Duckworth was elected to the Senate.