Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James was hit by a car while on her morning walk June 17 and has sustained a broken vertebrae.

James is now recuperating at home in a back brace for the next four to six weeks and has postponed her book tour, board duties and speaking engagements while she recovers.

James told Air Force Times Monday that when the accident occurred, she was walking in her Virginia neighborhood and had just begun to cross the street. A driver then turned right on red and hit her, she said. James believes the driver looked left, but didn’t see her to his right as he attempted to merge.

James said she was taken in an ambulance to a hospital and was in terrible pain last week.

She hopes that, with some luck, her broken vertebrae will heal in the next month to month-and-a-half. But if it doesn’t, James said she may require surgery.

The driver was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian, James said.

James said she is “upbeat and hopeful” and looking forward to getting back to work. She said every postponed event will eventually be rescheduled.

“I’m in some pain, but I’m dealing with it,” James said. “Each passing day, it improves a bit. This is just a bump in the road.”

James published a book this spring, “Aim High: Chart Your Course and Find Success,” that discusses her time as the Air Force’s top civilian leader. It also shares her managerial strategies and five-step approach to solving problems. She had been scheduled to discuss her book at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday, but that event was postponed.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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