Two-time former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld died at the age of 88 this week.
According to his family, the cause was multiple myeloma, and he was surrounded by loved ones at his home in New Mexico when he died, The Daily Wire reported.
“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,” the family’s statement explained. “At 88, he was surrounded by family in his beloved Taos, New Mexico.”
“Strength, skill, and honor”
Rumsfeld was the only defense secretary to serve under two different nonconsecutive presidents: Gerald Ford and George W. Bush.
Although he faced his share of detractors, particularly regarding his role in the post-9/11 U.S. invasion of Iraq, his long and influential legacy is being celebrated by many who admired him — including Bush.
The former president hailed Rumsfeld’s “steady service as a wartime secretary of defense — a duty he carried out with strength, skill, and honor.”
Those closest to him, however, are remembering who he was behind the scenes.
“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,” his family added.
“The enemy thinks differently”
Rumsfeld’s distinguished career was bookended by his status as both the youngest-ever Pentagon chief when he joined the Ford administration at age 43 and, upon leaving the Bush administration at age 74, the oldest.
He received the Medal of Freedom from Ford for his service during that administration.
Of course, Bush forced Rumsfeld out over perceived missteps in coordinating the military response to the 9/11 attacks. Even in 2006, a growing number of critics complained that ongoing wars had dragged on for too long and saw them as a stain on Rumsfeld’s career.
For his part, however, the outgoing defense secretary defended his actions at the time in a farewell speech, explaining: “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. 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.”