Lindsey Graham to hang up the Air Force uniform

This came in this morning:

Graham Announces Retirement from United States Air Force

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is retiring after more than three decades of service to the United States Air Force. 

“I’ll turn 60 this summer which is the mandatory retirement age for the Air Force Reserves,” said Graham, who holds the rank of Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves and is assigned as Senior Individual Mobilization Augmentee to The Judge Advocate General.  “Although I would cherish the opportunity to continue to serve, I know that the time has come for me to end my service and transfer to the retired reserves.”

Lt. Gen. Jack L. Rives, Air Force judge advocate general, pins the Meritorious Service Medal on Col. Lindsey Graham in a Pentagon ceremony April 28, 2009. In addition to being a U.S. senator from South Carolina, Colonel Graham is an individual mobilization augmentee and the senior instructor at the Air Force JAG School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Gen. Jack L. Rives, Air Force judge advocate general, pins the Meritorious Service Medal on Col. Lindsey Graham in a Pentagon ceremony April 28, 2009. In addition to being a U.S. senator from South Carolina, Colonel Graham is an individual mobilization augmentee and the senior instructor at the Air Force JAG School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“It’s been one of the great honors of my life to serve in the Air Force in some capacity for more than three decades,” continued Graham, who just completed another short tour of duty in Afghanistan over the Memorial Day recess.  “The Air Force has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.  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.”

Graham compiled a long and distinguished career in the Air Force.  He served on active duty for six and a half years (1982-1988), including four years in Europe.  Graham also served in the South Carolina Air National Guard (1989-1995) before joining the U.S. Air Force Reserves (1995-present).

Graham first rose to prominence when he uncovered and exposed major problems with the Air Force drug testing procedures at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  The mishandling of samples had led to false positives and the dismissal from the Air Force of service members who had not used drugs. 

His work was later showcased in a 1984 60 Minutes piece and he was also awarded The Air Force Commendation Medal for his work in uncovering problems with the program.

“Of all the Area Defense Counsel within the USAF Judiciary, Captain Graham deserves recognition as having made the most significant, overwhelming and positive impact upon the administrative and judicial due process entitlements afforded to Air Force military members,” wrote Lt. Colonel Robert E. Reed of the US Air Force of Graham in February 1984.  “He coupled tireless efforts and unparalleled knowledge while investigating and litigating the various procedures and scientific methodologies involved in the DOD Drug Urinalysis Program.  The fruits of his labor caught the attention of officials within the highest echelons of the Department of Defense, Air Force and the Judge Advocate General.” 

From 1984-1988, Graham was assigned overseas and served at Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Germany.

“During this period, Captain Graham’s professional skill and unrivaled ability to turn conflict and friction into agreement and cooperation resulted in major contributions to the state of discipline in the United States Air Forces in Europe,” according to the citation accompanying the Meritorious Service Medal awarded to Graham. “The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Captain Graham while serving his country reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.”

In 1989, Graham joined and served in the South Carolina Air National Guard.  During the first Gulf War in the early 90’s, Graham was called to active duty and served state-side at McEntire Air National Guard Base as Staff Judge Advocate where he prepared members for deployment to the Gulf region.

“Major Graham is truly an outstanding officer and career professional,” wrote Colonel Jerry H. Risher, of the South Carolina Air National Guard (SCANG) in Graham’s 1992 performance report.  “His untiring efforts during the Desert Storm mobilization provided expert advice and guidance on legal affairs for approximately 800 personnel.  His exceptional ability and energetic approach to accomplish each task inspires all who work with him.” 

As senator, Graham continued to serve in uniform.  During congressional and holiday breaks, Graham often pulled short-term reserve duty in Iraq and Afghanistan where he worked on Rule of Law issues.

Last summer while serving another stint on reserve duty in Afghanistan, Graham was presented with the Bronze Star Medal for his “exceptionally meritorious service.”  The commendation covered the period of August 2009 to July 2014 for his service as Senior Legal Advisor during Operation Enduring Freedom.  

According to the commendation, “During his active duty training periods, he provided expert advice and a long term perspective about rule of law development and detention operations.  He participated in 60 missions in a combat environment advising six general and flag officers during engagements with key members of the Afghan Criminal Justice Sector. ….Colonel Graham’s distinctive accomplishments are in keeping with the highest honors and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435, and the United States Air Force.”


So you have to retire at 60? Well, I guess that’s out for me as a second career…

I was thinking that I knew of a couple of Navy people who served well past that — Grace Hopper and Hyman Rickover. But Adm. Hopper DID retire at 60, only to be called back to active duty a couple of times over the next few years. Rickover just refused to retire, until he was forced out at 82. Up until then, he ignored all hints, such as when they put his office in a converted ladies restroom.

Rickover was the Father of the Nuclear Navy, and Jimmy Carter’s mentor during his naval career.

Grace Hopper was the legendary computer pioneer; she’s famous for, among other things, coining the term “bug” for a computer problem — inspired by a moth found in one of the early machines. My Dad once took a class taught by her, back in the ’50s. He had no idea WHY the Navy wanted him to learn about computers, as he could not imagine what he would ever use one for. He knew how to navigate without electronic help, after all.

But I digress. Anyway, I’m sure Graham will miss putting on the blue suit. Or BDUs, or whatever they wear now. He was proud of being one of the few in Congress currently serving. But now, he can be among the few who are veterans…

15 thoughts on “Lindsey Graham to hang up the Air Force uniform

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, I don’t know about that, but I was a bit surprised, because I think of it as a medal for valor in combat. I’ve seen one of my Dad’s citations, and it describes action a whole lot more exciting than what is in this release.

      But I’m thinking of the version with the “combat V,” according to Wikipedia

  1. Bryan Caskey

    “In 2014, he was presented a Bronze Star Medal for exceptionally meritorious service as a senior legal advisor during Operation Enduring Freedom.”

    Yeah, it was a hell of a night, I tell ya. The motions were flying around like fireflies in the sky after we filed our initial pleadings. We took some objections over the drop zone before landing smack dab in the middle of the worst deposition I ever saw. There were mangled exhibits and documents all over the place. After we managed to fight our way out of there, we holed up for the night without any expert witness to provide air support.

    The next morning, we called in support from co-counsel. You smell that? Do you smell that?… summary judgment, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of summary judgment in the morning. You know, one time we had a summary judgment hearing and we argued summary judgment for twelve hours, for twelve hours. When it was all over, it was granted to us and I walked up to the other lawyer’s office. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ lawyer body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole office. Smelled like… victory. Someday this lawsuit’s gonna end…

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      LOL, literally…
      y’know, Bryan, I used to ride the elevator with Scott Turow back in Chicago, and you’re much more photogenic. Just sayin’

    2. Dave Crockett

      Brad, I’m surprised you didn’t suggest “Bridge over the River Congaree”..

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    You know, y’all are corrupting me.

    Here I was, all poised to be indignant if y’all made disparaging remarks, as y’all always do when Lindsey gets mentioned. I was going to say, “Just once, can’t you just thank the guy for his service and move on?”

    And then you get me caught up in your wiseacre stuff.

    But seriously, I do thank the senator for his service, both in uniform and in the Senate.

    Not everybody can do what James Smith did — quitting the JAG corps and resigning his commission to start over as a private in the infantry. People contribute what they can, according to what they have to give. I mentioned Grace Hopper and Hyman Rickover — they didn’t tote rifles, but they both made famous contributions.

    LIndsey did what he was good at, and I appreciate it.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      The James Smith thing was stupid, but bless his heart. The Army could far more use his JAG skills. I’m sure he meant well, but….the guy’s got children, for Pete’s sake!

    2. Mark Stewart

      I appreciate Lindsey’s service in the JAG corps. I just guffaw at the idea that his meritorious service was deserving of what the Bronze Star used to represent.

      They could have given him a gold-colored Cross pen…

    3. Bryan Caskey

      I appreciate Graham’s service and his contributions. He has my thanks. However, to award him a Bronze Star is, in my opinion, inappropriate.

      Had I been in the JAG Corps, and been put up for a Bronze Star for my legal contributions, I would have been mortified, and I would have asked whomever proposed it to withdraw their proposal.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    Back to my digression on Rickover…

    I had never before heard about how he was forced out of the Navy by Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy during Reagan’s first term in office. (Remember that Jimmy Carter idolized Rickover.)

    Carter tells this version of the scene in the Oval Office when he had to retire:

    His long and distinguished career ended abruptly: in late 1981 Rickover’s wife heard on the radio that President Reagan had retired the admiral, who was on a new submarine conducting sea trials, and she had to give him the news. Several weeks later, he was invited to the Oval Office and decided to don his full dress uniform. He told me that he refused to take a seat, listened to the president ask him to be his special nuclear advisor, replied ‘Mr. President that is bullshit,’ and then walked out.”

    He also apparently chewed out the secretary who was firing him…

  4. Pat

    I know y’all have commended Colonel Graham for his service, but I feel the need to mention that serving in a war zone in whatever capacity is not all that safe. In fact, in Afghanistan, a helicopter was shot down killing all those on board which included a JAG officer. A young lawyer we know was there at the time, and we were so relieved he wasn’t on that flight.

  5. Bill

    He’s not hanging up the uniform for good. His BF likes him to wear it when they’re , ‘role playing’.

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