After 34 years of service Gen. Stanley McChrystal retired from the military Friday, just weeks after President Obama relieved him from his post as top commander in Afghanistan for disparaging remarks he made directed at the administration.
The ceremony, held at Fort McNair in Washington D.C., began with a 17-gun salute and a performance from the U.S. Army Band and the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. The attendees amounted to a who's who of the military elite.
Not surprisingly, the event did not touch on the circumstances of Gen. McChrystal's departure, which was based entirely on the fallout from a disastrous profile piece that appeared in the Rolling Stone Magazine.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered remarks, calling McChrystal a "one of the finest men at arms this country has produced." Gates said it was sad to seem him go "before he could see his last mission through." Since leaving Afghanistan McChrystal has been replaced by former Central Command boss, Gen. David Petraeus.
Despite the incident surrounding his retirement, Gen. McChrystal was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership in Afghanistan. Earlier he received Presidential approval to keep his fourth star. Typically, generals need to serve two years at the same rank before they can retain that same rank in retirement and receive those benefits. McChrystal served less than one year as a four-star.
Afghan Ambassador to the United States, Said Tayeb Jawad, presented McChrystal with his country's highest state medal for McChrystal service, noting in particular his work to reduce civilian deaths.
Gen. George Casey, chief of staff of the Army, described McChrystal's days as head of Special Operations Forces in Iraq and told the story of the day McChrystal and his teams killed Al Qaeda and Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He was proud of his work and as we spoke over the phone "it was the first time I heard his voice crack with emotion," Casey said.
His exercise and eating routines are legendary, Gates said. "I get hungry and tired just reading them. He crushed Al Qaeda in Iraq...his place is secure as one of America's greatest heroes."
The ceremony ended with remarks from McChrystal himself. He said he's leaving a career he feels strongly about, but enjoys the opportunity to reconnect with his family. "If I had it all to do over again I'd make some changes, but not many," McChrytsal said.