How many presidents have earned the distinction of receiving the Medal of Honor? Just one: President Theodore Roosevelt—102 years after the brave act he was honored for.
On January 16, 2001, then-President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded the long-departed Roosevelt for his bravery during the Battle of San Juan Hill in 1898.
Roosevelt was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army in those days, leading his famed Rough Riders through Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
Although the war eventually led to the end of Spain’s rule in various parts of the Americas and the Philippines, the fighting began in Cuba. That’s where revolutionaries had been fighting against Spanish colonial rule for years. And that’s where America first got involved, taking the side of Cuban rebels.
By May of 1898, the U.S. had sent Roosevelt to Texas—near San Antonio—to train and recruit soldiers for the conflict. The conditions in Texas were tough, he later wrote, but so were the recruits.
“They were splendid shots, horsemen, and trailers,” he wrote. “They were accustomed to living in the open, to enduring great fatigue and hardship, and to encountering all kinds of danger.”
By the end of May, Roosevelt and his 1,200 Rough Riders became the first American troops to land in Cuba. They took part in two battles. The first was indecisive. But the second, where Roosevelt led a charge atop his horse, Texas, was at San Juan Hill and helped turn the tide against the Spanish.
The day after the battle, U.S. forces overtook the Spanish-held city of Santiago. And the day after that, U.S. war ships destroyed the Spanish fleet anchored nearby. Spain surrendered Cuba on July 17 in a war that lasted only 10 weeks.
Roosevelt was considered a hero and became quite famous at home. He used his popularity to help propel him toward the U.S. presidency several years later.
Veteran Energy is proud to celebrate the heroic deeds of Theodore Roosevelt. And we’re honored that so many others have followed in his footsteps in defense of America.