Military Connection: Veterans Who Became President


By Debbie Gregory.

As the country awaits official announcements from politicians who are considering a run for the presidency, the military and Veteran communities watch to see if any candidates in the 2016 election are Veterans. Throughout our nation’s history, more than half of our presidents served in uniform, 26 out of 44.

Anyone who knows history knows that our first president was General George Washington. Washington led the Continental Army as Commander in Chief. Against all odds, Washington’s forces defeated the world’s greatest military power, at the time, to win our country’s independence.

Even as our third president, Thomas Jefferson was penning the Declaration of Independence, he was a colonel in the Virginia Militia. He was succeeded by James Madison, who authored much of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, after also serving as a colonel in the Virginia Militia.

James Monroe was a major in the Continental Army, and is depicted in both famous paintings, “Washington Crossing the Delaware” and “Battle of Trenton.”

Major General Andrew Jackson was better known as “Old Hickory,” and he led a decisive victory during the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans.

Our ninth president, Army General William Henry Harrison, is better known as “Tippecanoe” for his victory in the Battle of Tippecanoe, where he led his forces to major victories in the War of 1812. Tippecanoe’s presidency only lasted a month, and his successor, John Tyler, was a captain in the Virginia Militia. Just like their campaign slogan, our list also reads, “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”

Throughout his life, our eleventh president, James Polk, liked to be referred to by Colonel, the rank that he attained in the Tennessee Militia.

Polk was succeeded by Zachary Taylor, a major general in the U.S. Army, whose military career spanned from pre-War of 1812 to successful campaigns as a commander against Santa Anna in the Mexican-American war, 1846-48. Gen. Taylor was succeeded by Millard Fillmore, a major in the New York Militia.

Franklin Pierce was a brigadier general in the Army during the Mexican-American War.

James Buchanan is the only Veteran president whose service didn’t include a commission. He served as a private in the Pennsylvania Militia.

Before becoming one of our nation’s greatest presidents, “Honest Abe” was saluted as Captain Lincoln of the Illinois Militia.

Andrew Johnson was a brigadier general in the Union Army.

Ulysses S. Grant was another commanding general. He led the Union Army to victory in the Civil War.

Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield were both major generals in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, and Chester A. Arthur and Benjamin Harrison were brigadier generals.

President William McKinley was a major in the Army, serving under Gen. Hayes.

Most Americans know that Theodore Roosevelt helped form and served in the “Rough Riders” of the Spanish-American War. Teddy actually preferred to be called “Colonel.”

Harry Truman was a heroic leader during World War I, where he was an Army colonel.

Most Veterans refer to Dwight David Eisenhower as Ike. He served as General of the Army and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II.

Succeeding President Eisenhower were a slew of WWII Veterans elected to the White House:

Lieutenant John F. Kennedy- U.S. Navy

Commander Lyndon Johnson- U.S. Navy

Commander Richard Nixon- U.S. Navy

Commander Gerald Ford- U.S. Navy

Jimmy Carter was a lieutenant in the Navy, serving from 1946-53.

Ronald Reagan was an Army captain.

George Bush was a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy, his son George W. Bush was a first lieutenant in the Texas Air National Guard.

Only time will tell how many Post/9-11 Veterans will be added to this list.

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Military Connection: Veterans Who Became President: By Debbie Gregory