Thank you for your service

From the desk of Jan Hommel, Museum Director:

A majority of America’s presidents came to office as Veterans.

Twenty-six of our 45 Presidents served in the military. Presidential Veterans often coincided with America’s military engagements. Until World War II, a majority of our presidents had served in the Army. Since then, most have served in the Navy.

General Ulysses S. Grant

Our ninth President, William Henry Harrison, embarked on his military career at age 18, enlisting 80 men off the streets of Philadelphia to serve in the Northwest Territory.
Civil War Veteran Ulysses S. Grant also gained national acclaim for his military service. Grant was a West Point graduate who fought in the Mexican War, but it was his calm, steely command of Union troops during the Civil War that earned Lincoln’s confidence. The Civil War produced seven Veteran presidents in the postwar period, all of them having served in the Union Army.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower


The First and Second World Wars ushered in another series of Veteran Presidents, starting with Harry Truman and West Point graduate General Dwight Eisenhower. Both men exemplified the strengths of military training by proving themselves to be diplomatic, dynamic leaders in an unstable world.

The evolution of warfare has introduced many new tactical and technical dynamics to the U.S. military, but the core qualities of decision-making and inspiring leadership remain. (U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs)

United States Presidents who were Veterans:

George Washington
General and Commander in Chief, Continental Army

Thomas Jefferson
Colonel, Virginia Militia

James Madison
Colonel, Virginia Militia

James Monroe
Major, Continental Army

Andrew Jackson
Major General, U.S. Army

William Henry Harrison
Major General, Kentucky Militia

John Tyler
Captain, Virginia Militia

James K. Polk
Colonel, Tennessee Militia

Zachary Taylor
Major General, U.S. Army
1805-1815, 1816-1849

Millard Fillmore
Major, Union Continentals

Franklin Pierce
Brigadier General, New Hampshire Militia

James Buchanan
Private, Pennsylvania Militia

Abraham Lincoln
Captain, Illinois Militia

Andrew Johnson
Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

Ulysses S. Grant
General, U.S. Army

Rutherford B. Hayes
Major General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

James A. Garfield
Major General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

Chester A. Arthur
Brigadier General, New York Militia

Benjamin Harrison
Brevet Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

William McKinley
Brevet Major, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

Theodore Roosevelt
Colonel, U.S. Army (Volunteers)

Harry S. Truman
Colonel, Army Officer Reserve Corps

Dwight D. Eisenhower
General of the Army, U.S. Army
1915-1948, 1951-1952

John F. Kennedy
Lieutenant, U.S. Naval Reserve

Lyndon B. Johnson
Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve

Richard M. Nixon
Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve

Gerald R. Ford, Jr.
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve

Jimmy Carter
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy

Ronald Reagan
Captain, U.S. Army

George Bush
Lieutenant (junior grade), U.S. Navy

George W. Bush
First Lieutenant, Texas Air National Guard

To our veterans, we would like to simply say “Thank you” for your service. Thank you for stepping forward when others stepped back. Thank you for placing yourself between us and danger. Thank you for delaying plans for your life in order to serve. Thank you for continuing to support your country once you left your military service by following new careers that we need to be a successful and productive society. Thank you for being a conscience to our nation. Thank you for serving as heroic examples of who we are as Americans and what we can dream to be. So on this Veteran’s Day, and every other day of the year, we simply say “Thank you!”