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updated: 7/5/2011 11:51 PM

Obama honors Gates with Medal of Freedom

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  • President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates during an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute, Thursday, June 30, 2011, at the Pentagon.

      President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates during an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute, Thursday, June 30, 2011, at the Pentagon.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has honored outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates' four decades of public service with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the highest honor the president can give a civilian.

Gates' last day on the job is Thursday after 4 1/2 years at the Pentagon.

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At a ceremony marking Gates' retirement, Obama called him a humble American patriot, a man of common sense and decency, and one of the nation's finest public servants.

Gates became defense secretary in December 2006 under Republican President George W. Bush. He is being replaced by outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta.

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