Gen. David Petraeus

For his leadership as commander of Multi-National Force Iraq in 2007 and 2008, Petraeus received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 2009.

Presenting the award, National Commander David K. Rehbein praised Petraeus for the success of the "surge" strategy. "He would be the first to tell you that the credit for the success in Iraq belongs to those who served and those who are still serving there," he told Legionnaires.

Petraeus responded, "In Iraq, our troopers are working to help our Iraqi partners solidify and build on the hard-earned progress of the last two years in the surge." Still, he conceded, Iraq "has a tough row ahead."

Son of a Dutch sea captain, a 1974 graduate of West Point and a master parachutist, Petraeus is considered by many to be the world's leading expert in counterinsurgency warfare. He served as the head of U.S. Central Command from 2008 to 2010, when President Obama tapped him to replace Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

In 2007, Time named Petraeus one of the 100 most influential leaders of the year and one of four runners-up for Person of the Year.

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