Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the few Republicans with military experience eyeing the White House in 2016, said Thursday he is retiring from the Air Force Reserve.
Graham, 59, is approaching mandatory retirement age. His three decades of Air Force service, most recently as a military lawyer at the rank of colonel, is “one of the great honors of my life,” he said in a statement. His retirement will take effect June 1, according to Politico, the same day he is expected to announce his presidential campaign in his home state of South Carolina.
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is also an Air Force veteran, and is expected to announce his bid a few days after Graham. Perry in February put out a video saying he was the only veteran in the field. “At this particular point in time, looking at the field, there's only one individual that's ever had the uniform of his country on,” Perry said in the video. “And that's me. And that matters.”
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has indicated that his campaign will emphasize his foreign-policy expertise and his approach to fighting national-security threats such as the Islamic State. “During congressional and holiday breaks, Graham often pulled short-term reserve duty in Iraq and Afghanistan where he worked on Rule of Law issues,” his office said in a news release.
“The Air Force has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” Graham said in the statement. “It identified and developed my talent, and helped me become useful to my country. It offered me adventure and showed me the world. It gave me a purpose bigger than myself. It put me in the company of patriots. It’s been almost like family to me. I’m going to miss it an awful lot, and I wouldn’t leave if they weren’t making me.”