Prior military service is not a requirement for holding political office. You can be president of these United States, which would also make you commander in chief of the U.S. military, without any prior military experience. Our Founding Fathers set things up that way in order to limit the power of the military by giving it a civilian as its top leader.
There have been many political leaders, including former Presidents, who did have previous military service, however. Many of them took the skills they learned in their military service and transformed those abilities into a strong leadership role in their post-military days. A few of them are identified here, in no particular order:
1. President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was elected as the 33rd Governor of California in 1967. He went on in his political career to be elected as the 40th President of the United States in 1981. He was re-elected for a second term, leaving office in 1989. He served from 1937 – 1945 in the U.S. Army Air Forces, obtaining the rank of captain.
2. President Jimmy Carter
James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., was elected as the 76th Governor of Georgia in 1971. He continued his political service with his successful campaign for the presidency in 1976. He took office as the 39th President of the United States in 1977. He served from 1943 – 1953 in the United States Navy, reaching the rank of Lieutenant.
3. U.S. Senator John Glenn
John Herschel Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, making three orbits in 1962. Glenn was selected for Project Mercury astronaut training in 1959. He came to the astronaut program through his work as a naval pilot. He entered the Naval Aviation Cadet Program in 1942 and flew 59 combat missions in World War II. He continued his military career, working with the Marines and the Air Force on approximately 90 missions during the Korean War. He was elected to his first term as a U.S. Senator in 1974 and served until his retirement in 1999.
4. President George H. W. Bush, Sr.
George Herbert Walker Bush began his political career in the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas’s 7th District. His extended political career culminated in his election as the 41st President of the United States. He served for one term, from 1989 to 1993. He served in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1945, achieving the rank of Lieutenant (junior grade).
5. U.S. Senator John McCain
John Sidney McCain III became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona’s 1st District in 1983. He is presently serving as the senior U.S. Senator from Arizona, a seat he assumed in 1987. Senator McCain served in the U.S. Navy from 1958 – 1981. He served during the Vietnam War and was held as a prisoner of war for five years. During his military service, he obtained the rank of captain and numerous medals.
Military service is not a prerequisite for elected office or governmental service, according to the laws of this great nation. Considering how many influential political leaders were elected to office after serving in the military, it may be something a future president should consider.