STRATHAM — Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc said the country he served in uniform for nearly four decades is afflicted with a “crisis of leadership” in all aspects of society, from government to business and even the military.

Armed with this conviction, Bolduc announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate as a Republican this week, officially becoming the first person to challenge two-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in 2020.

“When you look at Washington, D.C. and our elected leaders, our politicians are working for themselves and not for us,” Bolduc said Wednesday. “We need to start listening to our communities and bring up the people and listen to them. Washington, D.C. has centralized its power over the last 12 years. We need to develop solutions and put resources together (then) power that down to the communities because it’s the only way to solve the problems of violence, drug addiction, mental health, our veteran issues and to strengthen our economy.”

Bolduc served in the Army for 36 years and said through his “focus and hard work” he rose through the ranks to retire as a brigadier general. He is the father of three sons and grandfather of three. He lives in Stratham with his wife Sharon. He is also assisted by his trusty sidekick, Victor, his service dog.

During his Army career, Bolduc received two awards for valor, five Bronze Star medals and two Purple Hearts. He led one of the first groups of American armed forces in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, alongside future Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Bolduc was deployed to Afghanistan 10 times in his career and said he considers one of his most valued possessions to be a memorial with the dog tags of the service members killed in action under his command in Afghanistan and Africa, which occurred during his tenure as deputy director for U.S. Africa Command. He said he supports President Donald Trump in his efforts to pull American forces out of Afghanistan and applauded the resolve of young men and women today volunteering to serve their country.

“I draw my strength from the sacrifice the 72 service members made under my command who I did not bring home and the sacrifices their families made,” Bolduc said. “U.S. troops need to come out of Afghanistan, but we can’t abandon Afghanistan and the international community needs to continue to support (the rebuilding of the country). American service members have done their job. It’s up to the Afghans to determine what kind of government they want, what kind of peace they want.”

As someone who advocates for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress issues and personally open about his own struggles with PTS, Bolduc said if elected, he would put improving the quality of veterans’ health care at the top of his list of priorities. He has assisted U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan with legislation to create a “Green Alert” system, similar to an Amber Alert, to help find distressed veterans who have gone missing.

“Every (Veterans Affairs) medical center I’ve been in, the problem is bureaucracy and the problem is the leadership above them,” Bolduc said. “The people inside the VA who work there every single day are great people and do great things for our veterans. We have to bring the programs down to the community. All our problems are going to get solved from the bottom up, not the top down.”

Throughout his career in the Army, Bolduc said he strived to obtain as much information as possible before making critical decisions and ordering his troops into harm’s way. He said if elected, he will not be “ideological” or “obtuse” when it comes to developing solutions for New Hampshire residents.

“If you go in there and you think you know it all or you try to solve the problems by yourself; you become gridlocked,” Bolduc said. “You have disagreements and differences that get in the way of solving problems. I don’t consider myself the smartest person in the room, but I have to be the most understanding person in the room.”