Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with retired Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, who recently announced his candidacy for Senate in New Hampshire. He’s aiming to defeat Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen, who has held her seat since 2008.
In part one of the interview, which you can read here, we discussed Shaheen’s tenuous hold on New Hampshire voters, the state of health care in America, and Bolduc’s campaign motto, "Service Above Self." In part two, we will talk about PTSD, the military, and President Trump.
DW: How do you think your military service will help you in this race?
BOLDUC: Well, you know, you always hear the standard things, right? Service over self; people first – and those all really matter, but what I learned in the military that backed up what I learned on my grandfather's farm, what I learned from my parents, my coaches, my teachers, and in the community, is a strong sense of character.
I think what I learned in the military, being responsible for people and having people responsible for my health and welfare, is we have to work together as a team. We have to overcome our differences of opinions and our disagreements, and base our decisions off of principles, and continue to move forward.
The military also taught me that bottom-up approaches work the best. So, what we're not doing now in Washington D.C. is empowering our communities. All the power is being centralized in Washington D.C., stuck in a bureaucratic machine that is negatively affecting our communities, and we have to change that. What I learned in the military as Special Operations Officer is that the closer you are to the problem, the closer you are to the people that solve the problem, and the more resources you give them, the better the outcome. That's what we need to start doing now. We have to stop thinking that we know everything up in Washington D.C., and that we want to consolidate all the power up there at the expense of our communities, and at the expense of our state governments’ rights.
DW: If elected, will you adhere to the president no matter what, or are you willing to call him out if and when necessary?
BOLDUC: I support the president, but I am not a rubber stamp. The people that I support are the people of New Hampshire, and I will always do the right thing by them. If that means having a hard discussion with the president or anyone else about how to best take care of the people in New Hampshire, you can bet I will do that. I will not be his rubber stamp – but one of the things that I think people are not asking, particularly in Washington D.C., particularly in the halls of Congress, they should be asking themselves, "How are we going to support our president so that he's successful?" If he's successful, we're going to be successful, but you can rest assured that I will represent the interests of the people of New Hampshire, and that will be my focus. I think that's a very good distinction to make because I support the president, but I work for the people of New Hampshire.
DW: Can you talk about your work with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
BOLDUC: Sure. It started back in 2013 when my wife drew a line with me, and said, "Hey, listen, you need to get some help. I'm at my wit's end here." So, I got some help, and I went into therapy. I still do all the things that I'm supposed to do for my post-traumatic stress, TBI (traumatic brain injury), pain management, sleep disorder. I still do all that stuff because it's part of my disabilities, and the injuries that I sustained.
My work with PTS really began when I became the Commander of Special Operations Command Africa, and I realized that we were not taking care of our service-members and their families the right way. Talking to my leadership in the command, they agreed with me, and we decided to put a program together with the help of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and a nurse by the name of Sarah McNary, and we put together a really good program that allowed us to assess and determine what our service-members had for mental injuries, physical injuries, and get those taken care of.
We weren't giving our service-members the oil changes that they needed in order to stay physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy, and we were paying a price in our command climates, with sexual harassment, with sexual assault, with domestic disturbance, and with alcohol and drug abuse. So, there had to be a different explanation than indiscipline, and we found out that there was.
I guaranteed to all my service members that they would not lose their clearance, they would not lose their job, they would not be taken off their team if they went for help, and I got overwhelming participation. In 26 months, we saw a significant change, and our climate went from whatever it was for sexual harassment complaints, harassment in the workplace, down to zero. Our alcohol and drug abuse situations went down considerably as well.
This was something that I thought was very important for us to pass on to our higher headquarters, and I thought it was very important for me in order to get buy-in from my service-members that I had skin in the game, that this is a leader that's going to back you up. The New York Times did an article on me, for everybody to see and everybody to understand, and I was the first and only General Officer on active duty to do that, and it had a significant and profound positive effect, not only inside my command, but it gave others courage to go forward.
In retirement, my wife and I teamed up to do the same thing, except on the veteran side of the house, as well as talking and discussing problems that our active-duty service-members, our National Guard, and our reserve service members were having as well. It takes leadership to fix this problem, and it goes right back to the reason that I'm running. This is a huge leadership issue, and it will, in the end, if done properly, buy down our most dangerous outcome, and that is suicide.
DW: I know you were one of the famous "Horse Soldiers," but I wanted to ask, is there one particular experience from your military service that sticks in your brain and continues to shape you as a person?
BOLDUC: Yes, but it's not just one, it's 72 different situations that continue to shape me, and that is the 72 men and women service-members that I did not bring home, who were conducting missions that I directed in my ten tours in Afghanistan and my command time in Africa. It is their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their families that motivates me to be the best I can possibly be every single day, and when times are tough, I just think about them; I look at the memorial that I have in their honor, and I use it as a source of strength – that suffering, that adversity, that survivor's remorse – because some of those folks I was standing next to or in very close proximity to when they were killed. So, that shapes everything that I do, and I will not allow myself to quit or fail because that is my why and that's a hugely important driver in my life.
DW: Is there anything that we haven't touched on that you would want our readership to know about your candidacy or platform?
BOLDUC: Another area where Congress has left us vulnerable is immigration. It impacts our economy every day; it impacts our national security every day; it impacts the health and welfare of Americans every day. We have folks in Congress that represent New Hampshire who think that the borders in Texas and the poor immigration laws don't affect us up here, but that's not true. This has to stop, and it's only going to stop if we change people and we change our approach to getting things done in Congress.