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SERVING OUR VETERANS: U.S. presidents who served in the military

By Staff | Apr 6, 2018

The majority of veterans I have met, and I as well, feel our training and experiences in the military helped make us better citizens when we got out. The military taught traits and skills such as commitment, teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and a sense of duty. These qualities and skills, no doubt, helped mold many of our presidents as well.

Did you know that of the 44 presidents who have served our nation, all but 12 served in the military? They either served at the federal level as active duty or Reserve members, or in their state National Guard or militia. We, of course, first think about the great generals who became President like George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower. But when we look at all our presidents who are veterans, we find they served at all ranks from Private to General. All but one of these 32 Presidents served as an officer. Even Abraham Lincoln served as a Captain in the Illinois State Militia (for three months) during the Black Hawk War. James Buchanan was the only president to serve in the enlisted ranks. He served as a Private in the Pennsylvania State Militia during the War of 1812.

Several of our presidents were wounded during their time in service. James Monroe was wounded at the Battle of Trenton during the Revolutionary War. Franklin Pierce received a leg injury during a battle in the Mexican-American War. Rutherford B. Hayes was wounded at the Battle of South Mountain during the Civil War. John Kennedy served in combat during WWII and received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, and the Purple Heart for his injuries. George H.W. Bush was a Navy aviator, shot down, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross during WWII. Theodore Roosevelt is the only president to receive the Medal of Honor (posthumously) for his heroic action during the Spanish-American War.

History has rated which of our presidents have been great leaders, which have been average, and which have been not so good. I would like to think no matter what their rating is, the time they spent in the military made them better at what they did as president.

I would also like to believe this applies not only to our presidents but to the majority of veterans as well. Their contributions, to the military and the civilian world, have made our country a better nation. If we think about it in this way, it should help motivate us to find ways to honor all our veterans and support them by seeing they receive the benefits they have earned and deserve. That is my commitment to them as a Veteran Service Officer.

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