Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld died Wednesday at his home in Taos, New Mexico, according to a statement from his family.
“It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Donald Rumsfeld, an American statesman and devoted husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. At 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico,” the statement said.
“History may remember him for his extraordinary accomplishments over six decades of public service, but for those who knew him best and whose lives were forever changed as a result, we will remember his unwavering love for his wife Joyce, his family and friends, and the integrity he brought to a life dedicated to country,” it concluded.
A statement from the family of Donald Rumsfeld: pic.twitter.com/AlKYxVvqgF
— Donald Rumsfeld (@RumsfeldOffice) June 30, 2021
Rumsfeld died from multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that attacks the body’s plasma cells, The New York Times reports.
Rumsfeld is the only Secretary of Defense to have served two nonconsecutive terms, one under former President Gerald Ford and another under former President George W. Bush. Rumsfeld served his first stint under Ford from 1975 to 1977. He took the office at the age of 43, the youngest person ever to head the Pentagon.
Rumsfeld began his second term as Defense Secretary in 2001 and left the office in 2006 at the age of 74 as the oldest person ever to hold the post. During that time, Rumsfeld led the U.S. response to the 9/11 terror attacks and was the architect of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush eventually fired Rumsfeld over his handling of the conflicts, ending Rumsfeld’s career in government.
Prior to becoming Defense Secretary, Rumsfeld served in the military and worked in government and as a banker before winning election to the U.S. House. As USA Today reports:
Born in Chicago in 1932, Rumsfeld graduated from Princeton University, where he was a collegiate wrestler and commissioned as a U.S. Navy aviator and flight instructor. He served on active duty from 1954-57.
He became a staffer on Capitol Hill and worked as an investment banker. In 1960, he won his first term as a Republican congressman from Illinois. He resigned in 1969 and took a post in the Nixon administration, according to his congressional biography.
Ford awarded Rumsfeld with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service leading the Department of Defense. After his first stint leading the Pentagon, Rumsfeld worked again in the private sector for 23 years before joining the Bush administration.
Rumsfeld’s handling of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter turning into the longest war in U.S. history, disgraced the former Defense secretary to many and ended any career he may have had in politics. Rumsfeld never gave in to his critics and stuck by his actions.
“A conclusion by our enemies that the United States lacks the will or the resolve to carry out our missions that demand sacrifice and demand patience is every bit as dangerous as an imbalance of conventional military power,” Rumsfeld said in his farewell speech at the Pentagon, according to the Times. “It may well be comforting to some to consider graceful exits from the agonies and, indeed, the ugliness of combat. But the enemy thinks differently.”