Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who rose to fame as Israel’s most decorated soldier, received another medal on Thursday — in Washington, D.C.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta bestowed his department’s highest civilian honor on Barak, giving him the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award in a public ceremony.

“Mr. Barak is a battle-hardened warrior,” Panetta said in introducing his Israeli counterpart. “And, like so many great leaders, he is fundamentally a man of peace. Because he has seen war first-hand, he recognizes that we must take every possible step to try to avoid war.”

Speaking only days after Barak announced he would retire from politics following the upcoming general elections in Israel, Panetta added, “And, as he prepares to close this chapter in his career, I am delighted to be able to recognize his immense contributions by bestowing upon him the Department of Defense’s highest civilian honor, the Distinguished Public Service Award.”

Turning to Barak, Panetta then said, “Ehud, thank you for your friendship, and your dedication to the shared dream of a safer and more secure future for Israel and the United States.”

He then pinned the medal on Barak’s left breast pocket, and the two embraced and shook hands.

The Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service is the highest award that is presented by the secretary of defense to a private citizen, politician, non-career Federal employee, or foreign national. It is presented for exceptionally distinguished service of significance to the Department of Defense.

The US Department of Defense's Distinguished Public Service Award (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The US Department of Defense’s Distinguished Public Service Award (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)