Gen. John Allen’s Afghanistan command ‘hardest job in the world’
Gen. John Allen
President Barack Obama said Tuesday he accepted Marine Gen. John Allen's request to retire rather than proceed with the White House's previous plan to make him commander of NATO forces in Europe.
Allen, who has close ties to Fauquier County and who earlier this month completed a 19-month stint as the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, requested retirement "so that he can address health issues within his family,"
In a separate written statement, Allen said he wants to focus on helping his wife Kathy cope with health issues. He was not specific, but The Washington Post quoted Allen on Monday as saying that his wife suffers from a combination of chronic health issues that include an autoimmune disorder.
"The reasons for my decision are personal. I did not come to it lightly or quickly, but given the considerations behind it, I recognized in the end it was the only choice I could make," Allen said in his statement Tuesday.
Allen's retirement, effective in April, ends a 38-year military career for the four-star general. His brother Joe Allen, broker at Allen Real Estate, said his family had mixed feelings about the retirement.
"It would have been a nice position for him," Joe said of the supreme commander position, "a nice culmination to a career. But we really wanted him to come home and spend more time with us."
Joe called Allen's Afghanistan command "the hardest job in the world," and said his brother is looking forward to an opportunity to decompress. Allen has a love for teaching and the Shenandoah Valley, and has talked about teaching at a military school, Joe said.
The Allens grew up in the Greenwich area, just inside Prince William County, but considered themselves tied closely to Fauquier, Joe said.
Though Allen has homes in other locations, his emergency home address was always that of his parents, just outside of Warrenton, Joe said.
Throughout Allen's career, he was "deep selected" for several of his promotions, Joe said – meaning Allen rose in rank before he was technically eligible to do so (or to receive the pay increase merited by those promotions).
Those deep select promotions underscored Allen's talent, Joe said.
"That's how valuable he was to the Marine Corps," Joe said.
Allen and his brother grew up steeped in American military tradition, Joe said. Their father was an officer in the Navy. When Allen married Kathy, he married a woman whose father was a Marine colonel and whose grandfather was a Marine general.
When Allen went to serve overseas, he would call home to his mother, Joe said. Allen couldn't always talk about specifics, but he would often say, "I actually did something for my country today," Joe said.
"He felt really good about being able to do something concrete for the country," Joe said. "And I think a lot of young people should aspire to that."