Vying for Commander-in-Chief: 2 Men Who Never Served

PHOTO: Barack Obama walks up to lay a wreath during a ceremony on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery on May 28, 2012 in Arlington, Virginia.
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For the first time since 1944, the two primary candidates for president have no military background.

Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney enlisted in the armed forces, although both of them have histories that run tangent with the military.

Obama, for example, is related to a number of veterans, including an uncle who helped liberate a concentration camp. The president, 50, has spoken about his family's military service but has said in speeches to soldiers that he can't know their battle experiences like they do. He often mentions his Kansas-born grandfather Stanley Dunham, who helped raise him, nearly every time he speaks to veterans, especially in connection with D-Day. As an Army Sgt. Dunham was stationed near the channel and crossed a few weeks after the surprise attack.

Romney, meanwhile, received a draft deferment because of his status as a Mormon minister of religion while he was a missionary in France. The former Massachusetts governor, 65, later signed up with the Selective Service, but his draft number was too high for him to be called into service.

It has been more than six decades since a presidential election didn't involve a veteran. Sen. John McCain was a prisoner of war as a Navy aviator; former President George W. Bush was in the Air National Guard and Sen. John Kerry served in Vietnam; Al Gore was in the Army; Bill Clinton never served but Bob Dole did; and every president from George H.W. Bush to Harry Truman was in a branch of the military.

Franklin Roosevelt didn't serve, but he was the assistant secretary of the Navy. His main opponent in 1944, Thomas Dewey, wasn't in the military either.

It's becoming increasingly likely that the United States will never have a president who served in theVietnam War, an event that is mostly history, not a memory, for the modern candidate.

Obama has tried to make up for his lack of service by starting campaigns from the White House for military families. The first lady has also made helping military families one of her chief causes.

Obama clearly has room to gain. A Gallup poll released today, Memorial Day, reported that veterans support Romney over Obama by 58 percent to 34 percent. People who aren't veterans give Obama a 4-point lead over Romney, the survey said.

Romney celebrated Memorial Day at a rally with McCain, warning that a dangerous world of untrustworthy Iranians, Chinese and Russians poses a threat if the United States follows "in the pathway of Europe, to shrink our military to pay for our social needs."

The other choice, he said, is to "keep America as the strongest military power in the world."

"We choose that course for America not just so we win wars," Romney said, "but so we can prevent wars."

Correction: This article originally said inaccurately that Obama's uncle helped liberate Auschwitz.

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