As we celebrate Veterans Day this year, it is instructive to consider the contributions of our presidents to our nation’s defense and military. Of America’s 43 presidents, 31 have served in the military.
Ten, most notably George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Dwight Eisenhower, attained the rank of general. Five others held the rank of colonel. Three future presidents engaged in combat in the Revolutionary War, five in the War of 1812, three in the Mexican-American War, five in the Civil War, one in World War I, and eight in World War II. Only one future president—Theodore Roosevelt—participated in the Spanish-American War in 1898.
When the war broke out, he resigned his position in the Department of the Navy, formed the Rough Riders (a volunteer cavalry regiment), and led a famed charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba.
Although Roosevelt died in January 1919, 10 months before Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Veterans Day, his attitudes toward peace and war and his appreciation of the contributions of veterans provide a good model for today.