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Graham Bids Reluctant Farewell to Air Force Reserve

Graham, right, toured a detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan as part of his Air Force Reserve duties in January 2013. (Sgt. Katie D. Summerhill/U.S. Army File Photo)

Sen. Lindsey Graham has known for months that with his 60th birthday approaching, the deadline for mandatory retirement from the Air Force Reserve is just ahead of him.  

"I'll be retiring at the end of the month," the South Carolina Republican said shortly before senators departed for Memorial Day recess. "Let's put it this way: If I get called up between now and then, something really bad happened."  

Graham, who is scheduled to make an announcement about his presidential campaign plans on June 1, recently told an Iowa Republican Party dinner he had one more trip overseas as a colonel in the Air Force Reserves. And Thursday, his office said that trip to Afghanistan was completed during the Memorial Day break.  

"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," Graham said in a statement Thursday. "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."  

He earned a Bronze Star for his previous service in Afghanistan, when he was senior legal adviser from the summer of 2009 to the summer of 2014. He served on active duty for six and a half years during the 1980s, including a long posting in Germany. Graham later served in the South Carolina Air National Guard before transitioning to the reserves.  

The approaching retirement date has clearly been on Graham's mind, having mentioned it at least as far back as February at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing regarding — not surprisingly, military retirement benefits.  

"I'm not going to screw with my own retirement," he quipped at the hearing.  

Connor O'Brien contributed to this report. The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.