News / USA

Gates Honored on Final Day as Defense Chief

Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama salute during a farewell ceremony for Gates at the Pentagon, June 30, 2011.
Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barack Obama salute during a farewell ceremony for Gates at the Pentagon, June 30, 2011.

Multimedia

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday awarded retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award came during a military tribute to Gates on his final day in office.


It was an elaborate farewell ceremony outside the Pentagon with President Barack Obama joining Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the end of his more than four years in office.

Gates is the only defense secretary in U.S. history to be asked to remain in office by a newly-elected president.  He was first sworn in under Mr. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, at a crucial point during the Iraq war.

Gates oversaw a surge of American troops in Iraq and later in Afghanistan that analysts say helped turn around both military campaigns.

At Thursday's ceremony, President Obama called Gates a "humble American patriot, a man of common sense and decency," and one of the nation’s "finest public servants."

“Bob, today you are not only one of the longest serving secretaries of defense in American history, but it is also clear that you have been one of the best,” he said.

As defense secretary, Gates made numerous trips to Afghanistan and Iraq, always making a point to visit the American men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line.

President Obama said Gates made it his mission to ensure the Defense Department serves troops in the field as well as they serve the nation.

“And today, we see the lifesaving difference he made - in the mine resistant vehicles, in the unmanned aircraft, the shorter medevac [medical evacuation] times in Afghanistan, in our determination to give our wounded warriors the world class care they deserve,” Obama said.

Mr. Obama then awarded Gates the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.  

In his address, Gates said he is proud of the cooperation the Pentagon has had with other federal agencies, especially those dealing with intelligence, development and diplomacy.

“The blows struck against al-Qaida, culminating in the bin Laden raid, exemplify the remarkable transformation of how we must fuse intelligence and military operations in the 21st century,” Gates said.

Gates said serving as defense secretary has been the greatest honor and privilege of his life.  In a farewell message to the men and women of the military and their families, he thanked the service members, saying that their dedication and courage have kept America safe.

“I'll just say here that I will think of these young warriors - the ones who fought, the ones who keep on fighting, the ones who never made it back - 'till the end of my days,” Gates said.

The 67-year-old Gates will be succeeded by another veteran of Washington public service, Leon Panetta, who has been leading the CIA.

Panetta says his first task at the Pentagon will be to ensure the United States prevails in the conflicts it is engaged in, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid