By Delonte Harrod, Pentagram Staff WriterJanuary 12, 2017
In the final days of President Barack Obama's term as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, high ranking military and government officials acknowledged and celebrated his accomplishments by honoring him with a farewell tribute Jan. 4 at Conmy Hall on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter presented President Obama with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.
Obama also received the U.S. Army Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service, the U.S. Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the U.S. Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service and the U.S. Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award.
President Obama was honored for his decision-making that furthered the military's mission, and for leading the DoD through eight years of war. For these and more accomplishments, Carter pinned the Distinguished Public Service medal on the president.
High-ranking officials from the National Capital Region and beyond were in attendance, along with Vice President Joe Biden and members of Obama's cabinet, like Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who attended to see America's first African-American president honored.
The event included speeches from Carter, Gen. Joe Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and by the president himself. Dunford spent time recounting the moments he observed his commander-in-chief speak with service members and show his appreciation for those who had died while serving.
"Throughout your time in office, we have heard you express your appreciation for [Soldiers] service and sacrifice, but this afternoon I want to express our appreciation for your leadership and honor your service as our commander-in-chief," said Dunford.
"Mr. President, we have been to war on your tenure, that is a period longer than any other president, and throughout those years you've always been there for us. You were there in the Situation Room where I personally witnessed your thoughtful and careful deliberations when ordering our young men and women in harm's way."
Dunford also added that there were moments when Obama personally visited wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and honored those who had died while in combat by visiting their graves and laying wreaths at historic Arlington National Cemetery.
During his speech, Carter thanked the president for leading the armed forces through a time of war. Carter said Obama's presidency came during "a critical time" for America. Carter called Obama a focused, strategic leader and congratulated him for strengthening the service members and their capabilities.
"Our military is a global force, one President Obama has steadfastly and strategically led in every region of the world to ensure the men and women of the strongest and most principled fighting force in history effectively defend our country, deter our adversaries, bolster our alliances and partnerships to make a better world for our children," said Carter.
Carter went on to talk about how Obama strengthened international partnerships with--to name a few--Vietnam, India, Japan, and Australia. He also said Obama led the most robust counter-terrorism fight in America's history against ISIL.
The hour-long ceremony ended with President Obama giving his remarks. During that speech, Obama said that he is inspired by the men and women who continue to give their lives to serve this country.
"A lot of Americans don't see the sacrifices you make on our behalf," said Obama. "But as commander-in-chief, I do. I've seen it when I looked into the eyes of young cadets, knowing that my decisions could very well send them into harm's way."
"I've seen it when I've visited the field -- at Bagram and Baghdad -- far from your families, risking your lives so that we can live ours safely and in freedom. And so you've inspired me, and I have been humbled by you consistently."
"And I want every American to know what I know--through year after year after year of continuous military operations--you have earned your place among the greatest generations. The list of accomplishments that Joe and Ash so generously mentioned, they're because of you."
"It's what I tell my staff--I'm the front man, but you're the ones doing the work."
Pentagram Staff Writer Delonte Harrod can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.