YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The Army’s senior-ranking enlisted soldier in Korea was honored with a South Korean medal as he retired last week, according to an Army news release.

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin C. Palacios was awarded the Order of National Security Merit Gwanbok Medal by Gen. Nam Jae-joon, the South Korean army chief of staff. Nam presented the medal on behalf of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Wednesday.

Palacios, command sergeant major of the U.N. Command, Combined Forces Command, U.S. Forces Korea and 8th U.S. Army, is the first enlisted soldier to receive the medal since the end of the Korean War.

“Command Sergeant Major Palacios has made great contributions to strengthening friendship between the two countries and to safeguarding the national security of the Republic of Korea,” Roh wrote in the citation. “His valuable dedication and service have earned him the appreciation and admiration of the Korean people.”

“Words cannot describe what I feel,” Palacios was quoted as saying in the release. “I didn’t get this award by myself. I got this award for all the servicemembers who I work for and with.”

Palacios, who is retiring, was replaced by Command Sgt. Maj. Troy J. Welch during a ceremony Friday.

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