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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan December 21, 2007
SUMMARY: They want to be commander in chief, but most of the presidential candidates have not served in the military. Our survey of their resumes finds that five of the 15 candidates have military experience.

A reader asked us for explanation on which candidates have served in the military and what they did. Here's what we found out.


Joe Biden

Military experience? No.

Details: During the Vietnam War, Biden got a draft notice but flunked the physical due to asthma, according to a 1987 Washington Post profile.

Hillary Clinton

Military experience? No.

Details: Clinton wasn't subject to the draft in Vietnam because she is a woman. She has said that she tried to sign up for the Marines in 1975 and was told she was too old (at 27) and her eyesight was too poor.

Chris Dodd

Military experience? Yes.

Details: In 1969, Dodd enlisted in the Army National Guard. He later served in the U.S. Army Reserves, for a total of six years of military service.

John Edwards

Military experience? No.

Details: Edwards, born June 10, 1953, was still in high school at the height of the Vietnam draft. He later had a draft number that was never called, according to the Associated Press.

Mike Gravel

Military experience? Yes.

Details: Gravel served in the U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps from 1951 to 1954. He was based in Berlin.

Dennis Kucinich

Military experience? No.

Details: Kucinich had a medical exemption for the Vietnam draft.

Barack Obama

Military experience? No.

Details: Obama, born Aug. 4, 1961, was too young to be drafted in Vietnam.

Bill Richardson

Military experience? No.

Details: Richardson received student and medical classifications during the Vietnam draft and was never called.


Rudy Giuliani

Military experience? No.

Details: During Vietnam, Giuliani received draft deferments because he was in law school, and later received an occupational deferment. During the times he was draft eligible, he was not called.

Mike Huckabee

Military experience? No.

Details: Huckabee, born Aug. 24, 1955, was too young to be drafted during the Vietnam War.

Duncan Hunter

Military experience? Yes.

Details: Hunter served as an Army paratrooper and Ranger from 1969 to 1971 and served in Vietnam during the war. His son, a Marine, has completed tours of duty in Iraq and was recently deployed to Afghanistan.

John McCain

Military experience? Yes.

Details: McCain was in the Navy for more than 20 years. During Vietnam, he was held as a prisoner of war for five and a half years; at times he was tortured. He received awards that include the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. McCain also has two sons in the military; one was deployed to Iraq with the Marines and the other is at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Ron Paul

Military experience? Yes.

Details: Served as a medical doctor in the U.S. Air Force from 1963 to 1965 in San Antonio, Texas, and in the U.S. Air National Guard from 1965 to 1968.

Mitt Romney

Military experience? No.

Details: During Vietnam, Romney received a draft deferment while doing Mormon missionary work. He was eligible for the draft later but was not selected.

Fred Thompson

Military experience? No.

Details: Thompson had a wife and child during the Vietnam War and received deferments.

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Our Sources

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

The Almanac of American Politics

Associated Press, Few candidates' rsums include military service , April 27, 2007

Associated Press, McCain: Rivals Lack Military Experience , Nov. 3, 2007

New York Times, Question of Sons' Choices Dogs Romney Campaign , Aug. 15, 2007

Washington Post, "Joe Biden & the Politics of Belief," June 9, 1987

Hearst Newspapers, "Marines gave Hillary Rodham the cold shoulder in '75 meeting," June 15, 1994

New York Times, Nation Ends Draft, Turns to Volunteers , Jan. 27, 1973

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