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Tulsi Gabbard's star shines at convention

Tulsi Gabbard is accustomed to making history.

At 21, she became the youngest person elected to the Hawaii Legislature. At 23, she was the state's first elected official to voluntarily resign to go to war. At 28, she was the first woman to be presented with an award by the Kuwait Army National Guard.

Now, at 31, Gabbard is on her way to becoming the first Hindu elected to Congress.

The daughter of a Samoan Catholic father and white Hindu mother who moved from American Samoa to Hawaii when she was a child, Gabbard is a rising star in the Democratic Party. She appeared onstage Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, for a presentation highlighting Democratic women.

"As a combat veteran, I know the cost of war," Gabbard, a captain in the Army National Guard, told the crowd in Charlotte, N.C. "These days, it's often women in uniform — moms, wives, even grandmothers — who deploy and leave their families behind."

Gabbard pulled off a come-from-behind victory last month over Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary for Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District. No Republican has held the seat since the district was created in 1971. She is expected to coast to victory in November.

"She has an equanimity of spirit, a calmness, perhaps engendered by her military service," said Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. "She's a young person who reflects on the world around her and reflects on her place in it."

She also has emerged as an unlikely advocate on social issues, notably same-sex marriage and abortion.