From the Battlefield to the Oval Office: Honoring Our Commanders-in-Chief
Feb 20, 2017
The United States of America have been governed by 45 presidents, with the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump this past January. Our presidents come from a variety of backgrounds with some being governors, vice presidents, and others with no previous elected office experience. This year, Presidents’ Day falls on February 20. On this day, in various parts of the country, remember our great leaders who have lead this country in the past.
Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February. In some states, the day is dedicated to president George Washington’s birthday on Feb. 22, some dedicate it to both Washington and president Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is on Feb. 12.
Each president works for the people of the United States and also serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. While having a military background is not a requirement for the position, there are some presidents who have served our nation in the Armed Forces in a variety of capacities.
President Washington’s military career encompassed over 40 years and most notably, he fought during the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War with France from 1798-1800. After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, President Washington was prepared to fight for our country and appeared at the Second Continental Congress in a full military uniform. After congress created the Continental Army in June 1775, President Washington was appointed to the position of full General, as well as, named the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. He commanded the army through the siege of Boston in 1775, crossing the Delaware River in 1776, and the Victory at Yorktown among others.
In 1782, General Washington gave the order for a new military decoration to be created. The new award was named the Badge of Military Merit, and was awarded to only three Revolutionary War soldiers. The award went defunct and General Douglas MacArthur reopened the idea of a new design of the Badge of Merit in January 1931. The newly redesigned decoration became known as the Purple Heart, with the profile of Washington on the face of the medal. It was issued on, February 22, 1932, the 200th anniversary of Washington’s birth. Over 1 million Purple Heart medals have been awarded to members of the Armed Forces who were wounded or killed in action at the hands of a foreign enemy.
From 1882 to 1886, Theodore Roosevelt served in the New York National Guard and was promoted from a 2nd Lieutenant to Captain in 1883. Roosevelt served as the Assistant Secretary to the Navy in 1897 and was completing most of the duties of the Secretary of the Navy as John D. Long was not well during Roosevelt’s time. Roosevelt himself wanted to build up the navy’s fleet and was concerned about the Pacific and Caribbean. After the Maine exploded in Havana, Cuba in February 1898 and a failed attempt to purchase the country, Congress declared war with Spain and started the Spanish-American War.
After his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy ended, on May 6, 1898, he formed the First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, or the “Rough Riders” as the press deemed them. Roosevelt’s regiment was the only unit active throughout the entire Spanish-American War. Roosevelt was subsequently promoted to the rank of Colonel. The battle at Kettle Hill became his most famous battle but came at the cost of 200 men killed. In 2001, President Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, making him the only U.S. president to be a recipient of the award.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy originally wanted to join the Army’s Officer Candidate school but was unable to be admitted in 1940 due to chronic lower back problems. He was able to join the US Naval Reserve in 1941 and was commissioned as an ensign on October 26, 1941. In October 1942, he was promoted to lieutenant junior grade and was assigned to Motor Torpedo Squadron FOUR two months later.
While serving in 1943, a Japanese destroyer, the Amagiri, rammed the PT-109 Motor Torpedo Boat Kennedy was on. He helped survivors swim to shore after the boat was split in two. Both Kennedy and Ensign Leonard Thom were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal as well as the Purple Heart Medal for injuries sustained. To this day, John F. Kennedy is the only U.S. president to have received a Purple Heart medal. Kennedy also received the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 3/16” bronze stars, and a World War II Victory Medal. As President, Kennedy commanded the Armed Forces during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This Presidents’ Day, the Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting those who help keep our country safe, whether it be a newly enlisted serviceman or woman or the Commander-in-Chief of our great Nation. We feel it is our duty to honor these men and women who serve our country in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who are in need of assistance while transitioning home from the battlefield. You can show your support for these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.