Gates says goodbye to Pentagon
2011-07-01 00:45:28 GMT2011-07-01 08:45:28(Beijing Time)
nited States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2L) inspects soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and guardsmen during his Armed Forces Farewell Tribute on the River Parade Field at the Pentagon June 30, 2011 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama presents retiring U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during his farewell ceremony at the Pentagon near Washington, June 30, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (3rd L) inspects the troops, some in Colonial-style uniforms, during his farewell ceremony at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, June 30, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Retiring U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (on stage, L), U.S. President Barack Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen salute as the Washington Fife and Drum march past at a farewell ceremony for Gates at the Pentagon near Washington, June 30, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (L) laugh during remarks at a farewell ceremony for Gates at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, June 30, 2011. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
WASHINGTON, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Retiring U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday wrapped up his four-and-a-half years in the Pentagon, with an unexpected gift from President Barack Obama.
During a farewell tribute ceremony at the Pentagon, Obama praised Gates for his services for the country, and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the highest award a president can confer to a civilian.
"I can think of no better way to express my appreciation to someone I have come to admire and whom I consider a friend," Obama said. "I can think of no better way to express the gratitude of the nation for Bob Gates than with a very special recognition."
Calling the award a big surprise, Gates said he was deeply honored and moved by the president's presentation of the award. He thanked President George W. Bush for nominating him for the job in 2006, and President Obama for retaining him in it during the change in administrations in 2009.
Gates announced last August that he would quit the job at the middle of this year. His successor -- Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon Panetta -- will take over the job starting next month.