U.S. President George Bush has given America's highest civilian honor
to the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retired Marine
General Peter Pace. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the
President Bush says General Pace was a skilled and trusted advisor in a time of war.
"He helped transform our military into a more efficient and effective force in America's defense," said Mr. Bush.
was the first Marine to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
of the military, capping a career that began as a 22-year-old platoon
leader in the Vietnam War.
"On his final day in uniform, General
Pace took a quiet journey to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial," he
added. "He searched the names engraved in the sleek granite and then
found a spot where he placed the four stars that had adorned his
uniform. Along with those stars, he attached notes addressed to the men
who died under his first command some four decades ago. The notes said:
'These are yours, not mine. With love and respect, your platoon leader,
As the nation's highest-ranking military officer,
Pace occasionally disagreed publicly with senior Bush administration
officials over interrogation techniques and Iran's involvement in the
war in Iraq. He was not re-nominated to his post in 2007, because
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he expected a contentious
confirmation hearing with congressional Democrats.
Bush also awarded the Medal of Freedom to Dr. Anthony Fauci who is the
director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Fauci is one of the
world's leading AIDS researchers and has been instrumental in
developing strategies for the treatment of the disease and the
development of a vaccine to prevent HIV infection.
At the White
House ceremony, Mr. Bush also presented the Medal of Freedom to
neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, former Health and Human Services
Secretary Donna Shalala, and federal judge Laurence Silberman. The
president recognized Holocaust survivor and former California
Congressman Tom Lantos with a posthumous Medal of Freedom accepted by
his wife, Annette.