Almost 40 years of service and several positions and awards later, Gen. William E. ''Kip" Ward retired from service April 26 on Summerall Field at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Ward commissioned in as an infantry officer June 1971.
For the past four years Ward has served in Stuttgart, Germany as the first commander of the United States Africa Command.
Presiding over the ceremony was Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh. Others in attendance included friends and Family as well as the 37th Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and his wife, Deanie, the 36th Chief of Staff of the Army (ret.) Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. and wife, Sheila and the 30th Under Secretary of the U.S. Army Dr. Joseph Westphal.
''From Somalia to Cairo to Israel and Stuttgart and back home again, Kip Ward has distinguished himself in each and every assignment and on behalf of the U.S. Army. Job well done," said McHugh.
He not only praised Ward's time in the service but also had much praise for the general's Family. ''Churchill once said that 'My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me,'" the Army secretary said.
''In the time that I've been blessed to know the Ward Family, I've seen what an incredible partner, a friend, an inspiration and source of support Joyce Ward has been," said McHugh.
''That a son as a sergeant in a segregated Army would rise through the ranks to become one of only a handful of African Americans in our nation's history to attain the rank of four star general is a testament to the integrity, the tenacity, the character and the ability of Gen. Kip Ward."
McHugh also talked about Ward's father being his inspiration in joining the forces.
In his closing words he wished a happy birthday to Phyllis, Ward's mother, as the day was not only chosen to celebrate Ward's retirement but also to celebrate her birthday.
''All I asked of [Joyce] was four years and then off to law school," said Ward. ''As the years moved on it became clear that serving my country and taking care of my teammates was a pretty fulfilling undertaking and doing it in a way that I saw my dad do... Working day in and day out to take care of and serve others."
Throughout his career Ward moved 30 times. Ward compared his four decades of service to the five points of the star general's wear.
''The star does not belong to the one who wears it but to all the aspects of one's life that created the opportunities and successes that led to that star," said Ward.
The five points represent: The United States of America, his teammates, units and organizations he's belonged to, faith, Family and what he has endeavored to be in a personal way, he explained.
For the conclusion of his speech, Ward thanked his wife for her love and support through the past 40 years and played her the song ''My Girl" via a chip in a musical card.
''I leave this position proudly, honorable and humbly. Thank you all for taking time to celebrate and acknowledging this service that Joyce and I rendered as I proudly wore the cloth of our nation," he said. ''I did not quit, I always placed mission first, I have never left a fallen comrade and I remain proud to serve. I am a Soldier."
During the ceremony Ward received the Distinguished Service Medal and a certificate from the commander in chief. His wife and college sweetheart received the Army Civilian Distinguished Service Award and the Department of the Army Appreciation Award.
After receiving the awards it is customary to give Family member's flowers and gifts.
However, Ward and his wife decided to make a contribution to various children's educational foundations instead. Wards' education includes infantry officer basic and advanced courses, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and U.S. Army War College. His civilian education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Morgan State University and a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from Pennsylvania State University.
Awards include the Defense Distinguished Superior Service Medal (with oak leaf cluster), the Legion of Merit (with three oak leaf clusters), Army Commendation Medal (with three oak leaf clusters), the Expert Infantryman's badge and Master Parachutist badge.