Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was honored with the American Patriot Award from National Defense University for his work in defense, including service under eight presidents in a career spanning four decades.
Gates said he accepted the award on behalf of the service members, who serve their country in times of war.
“Tonight, we sit and enjoy this wonderful occasion and each other’s company,” he said, “but we must never forget that our comfort and safety are borne on the brave and broad shoulders of those young men and women in uniform.”
That message was underscored as more than 40 members from each military service, who were part of the 2010 Sponsor a Patriot program, looked on. The service members, from bases all over the globe, were chosen by their commanders based on character and patriotism.
Also, in attendance were Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, senior administration officials, members of Congress and corporate and community leaders who made up the more than 600 guests at the ceremony.
President of National Defense University Navy Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau said the Patriot Award is presented to a citizen “whose sacrifice and dedication stand out as remarkable.”
“To someone who answers the call to public service, patriotism is not a concept,” she added. “It is a commitment, it is a duty upon which we act.”
Gates joins the rank of previous Patriot Award recipients Gen. David Petraeus, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Sen. John Glenn.