Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday thanked the men and women of the armed forces for what he said was their unequaled service and sacrifice as he gave a farewell address at a military facility outside Washington.
Hagel, who announced in November that he would be leaving his position after two years, told those in the service that they had his deepest gratitude.
"The things I have most respected and admired are your dignity, your courage and your dedication," he said.
Hagel said the men and women who devote their lives to America's security were the architects of the 21st-century world.
President Barack Obama attended the tribute. He called Hagel a "true American patriot" and thanked his defense chief for his friendship, counsel, character and integrity.
Hagel will stay on the job until the U.S. Senate confirms his replacement.
Obama nominated former deputy defense secretary Ashton Carter to take over for Hagel.