Presidents’ Day is a national holiday that is observed on the 3rd Monday in February and that’s right around the corner! Originally, the day was created to celebrate our first President, George Washington. Later, it was made to include Abraham Lincoln as well. Both very influential Presidents in the history of our country and both having birthdays in February. Eventually, it became a day to celebrate all great presidents in American history.
One of the most important responsibilities and titles that each President vows to uphold during their time in office is that of Commander in Chief. As the Commander in Chief, the President is the highest ranked military officer of our armed forces. With such a high honor, it is not a requirement of the President to have served in the military beforehand. However, it is certainly no coincidence that so many past Presidents have served their country before taking office. In fact, polls have shown that Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate with prior military service than one who has none. It shows they are not afraid to make sacrifices for our country and they have some understanding of that part of the job.
In honor of celebrating those who have shaped our country into what it is today, let’s look back on some of those Presidents that gallantly fought for our rights and freedoms not only from the Oval Office, but from the battlefield as well.
To start this list off, who better than George Washington. There isn’t enough time to explain all that he did for our country. Many believe he played a huge part in defeating the British in the Revolutionary war. Before the Revolution though, he led a Virginia Militia during the French and Indian War.
It is thought that his experience fighting and leading in this war helped prepare him for what he and his troops endured during the Revolutionary War. Always a patriot and looking out for his fellow Colonials, it’s no wonder that, with his experience and dedication to his people, that our Founding Fathers chose him to be the first President of the United States.
When people think of Abraham Lincoln they think of his victory in the Civil War. Many believe that had he not been President, our country would have been shaped very differently. His time serving as Commander in Chief was not his first taste of military experience though. Lincoln volunteered for the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk war.
He entered as a private and was soon elected as Captain of his company. That very well could have been a clue of what was to come for him as far as his leadership skills. He only served for three months, and did not see any battles. Although he walked away from it, the deaths of the soldiers that sacrificed their lives made an impact on him and something that he carried with him throughout the Civil War.
John F. Kennedy
Kennedy is known for a lot of things. His family’s bootlegging history, NASA, his assassination, being married to Jackie O, and being serenaded by Marilyn Monroe on his birthday, amongst many other things. Kennedy however, also served as an Officer in the U.S. Naval Reserves during World War II and has quite the war story.
He commanded two patrol torpedo boats. When one of those boats was hit and cut in half, many were injured, including Kennedy himself with a lower back injury. Despite the injury, Kennedy spent the next several hours saving other, more injured, members. They had to swim to an island three miles from shore in which Kennedy pulled another man by the strap of his life jacket in his teeth as he swam. From there they had to swim to another island to get the message out to send help. Needless to say, Kennedy was very heroic that day and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for his efforts, as well as the Purple Heart.
George H. W. Bush
Here is another President that joined the military during World War II. Bush joined the Navy when he was 18 and became a military aviator. In fact, he was the youngest pilot of that time. During his time in service, Bush flew 58 combat missions equaling 1228 combat hours. On one particular mission, Bush’s plane was hit and his engine caught on fire. He was still able to finish the mission, but his plane crashed and Bush was able to bail out.
He waited for several hours in an inflatable raft before a submarine was able to save him. He was very fortunate, as other pilots in the mission were killed, through line of duty or later captured by the enemy. Bush spent a month on the submarine that saved him helping to rescue other pilots. For his efforts in the war he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Citation Medal.
And many more…
If you are interested, there are many more Presidents that have a rich military service history. With 31 out of the 45 Presidents that have held office, it seems like no coincidence that the mark of a great leader has similar characteristics to someone who wants to support and defend their country in this way. Many of the past Presidents have held high ranks. Many have been rewarded with very prestigious honors, including Theodore Roosevelt who is the only President to have received the Medal Honor.
As you reflect on this day, take a look at what some of the other Presidents have accomplished before, during, and after their time as the President of the United States. It’s inspiring to look back and see what some of them were able to accomplish during their time on earth. They definitely deserve this day to be remembered for everything they have contributed.
Feature photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons