PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 11, 2011) -- Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, was presented the prestigious Abraham Lincoln Award during a Veterans Day celebration at The Union League of Philadelphia, here today.

Union Leagues were founded during the Civil War to support President Abraham Lincoln and the preservation of the Union; Philadelphia's, established in 1862, was the first.

First presented to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the award, which recognizes patriotism and service to country, has been bestowed on many distinguished civilian and military leaders, including former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Gen. David H. Petraeus and current Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.

In his remarks to the nearly 500 League members and veterans - including 40 from World War II, Rodriguez thanked the service members of yesterday and today.

"I travel around the world, to many, many places and talk with Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines," he said. "I tell them all there are 300 million people in the United States of America, living a pretty good life -- and what they do everyday helps that out … but what these World War II veterans have given us is why we get to live so well."

Rodriguez also talked about the complex challenges and risks the U.S. faces today.

"Current global trends, including a turbulent fiscal climate, extremism, urbanization, increased demand for natural resources, and catastrophic disasters are straining the ability of many governments of the world to take care of their people," he said. "Any of these situations could spark a future conflict."

Fortunately, the United States, along with other like-minded nations are confronting the evils of extremism, radicalism and terrorism," Rodriguez continued. "Now, I don't know exactly the course the struggle may take, or the sacrifices that may be ahead -- but I do know the cost of freedom is worth our sacrifice, and the cause of freedom will prevail."

Following his remarks, Rodriguez remained on stage to receive the Abraham Lincoln Award, presented by League President, Joan Carter.

"The Abraham Lincoln Award has only been presented on very special occasions, to very distinguished individuals," Carter said. "In former years it was given to Generals Grant, Sherman and Sheridan; and in more recent years to Generals Casey, Petraeus, Odierno and (Hal) Moore."

Today, I am proud to tell you that the Union League is adding another distinguished individual to (the list of) those who have received the award -- Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command," she said.

A foreign dignitary was also recognized during the event, as Vice Adm. Homero Luis Lajara Sola, vice minister, Armed Forces of the Dominican Republic, was named the first recipient of the Union League Bowl, for his dedicated and selfless service to peace and freedom.

After the luncheon, Rodriguez met privately with the World War II veterans, who all lined up for an impromptu receiving line and photo session.

A final highlight to the celebration occurred when former Pvt. 1st Class Edward "Babe" Heffron, a member of the fabled "Band of Brothers" from Easy Co., 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment exchanged a salute with FORSCOM's commanding general -- another paratrooper of distinction.