Retired Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton received the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony Thursday honoring him as a soldier's soldier.

"I am grateful that I had the opportunity to offer, on occasion, some unconventional perspective to our nation's leaders when the challenge to our nation was anything but conventional," Shelton said at a ceremony in the Capitol's Rotunda.

Shelton, 60, was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997-2001. He was given the award, the highest award Congress can bestow, for his 38-year military career.

"There are rare moments in a person's life when one may pay tribute to a great American, a real soldier and a wonderful friend," said Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

"His integrity, devotion to duty and dedication to the well-being of our men and women in uniform have never faltered."

The gold medal was first given in 1776 to George Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Gen. Richard Myers, current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also attended the ceremony.