Don Bolduc says he doesn’t remember the blast from the 2,000-pound bomb that fell on him in Afghanistan. He does remember the loud whistle before impact: “That’s a sound you don’t forget.” He also remembers regaining consciousness a few moments later, after the explosion had tossed him two or three dozen feet. The detonation was so powerful, it blew Bolduc’s wedding ring off his finger. “We’d all lost a lot of weight over there, so it was loose.” A sergeant found it in the rubble.
The friendly-fire accident on December 5, 2001, killed some 200 Afghan and three American soldiers and left Bolduc limping with leg and hip injuries. Yet Bolduc stayed in the field. At the time a major in the Army, he was traveling with future Afghan president Hamid Karzai and assisting in the capture of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city. Bolduc was among the first Americans to battle the Taliban after 9/11. He rode on horseback, like the so-called horse soldiers who participated in the seizure of Mazar-i-Sharif, a city in Afghanistan’s north, and were portrayed in the 2018 film 12 Strong. “We did everything they did in the movie, but in the south,” says Bolduc.
Bolduc’s new mission is to take a Senate seat next year in New Hampshire. On June 24, the retired brigadier general announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run against Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen. The primary is still a year away — scheduled for September 8, it’s one of the latest in the country — but Bolduc already may be on the verge of becoming a consensus candidate. If he wins, he could represent one of the two or three best opportunities for a GOP challenger to defeat a Democratic senator in 2020.