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Gen. Shalikashvili, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dies

Dirck Halstead//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1993 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton, died at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington Saturday. He was 75.

Shalikashvili, who was better known by his nickname, General Shali, died from complications following a stroke.

"From his arrival in the United States as a 16-year old Polish immigrant after the Second World War, to a young man who learned English from John Wayne movies, to his rise to the highest ranks of our military, Shali's life was an 'only in America' story. By any measure, he made our country a safer and better place," President Obama said in a statement.

The general served for more than 39 years on active duty and is best known for his role during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, during which time he worked to ensure the security of nuclear weapons of the former Soviet states.

With then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, he helped create NATO's Partnership for Peace and NATO enlargement programs that fostered relationships between former Soviet states and NATO.

"As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he strengthened our alliances in Europe and in Asia, forged closer defense ties with Russia, and championed the Partnership for Peace with the former Soviet states. At the same time, he oversaw successful military operations in Bosnia and Haiti, and elsewhere," the president's statement said.

When Shalikashvili retired in 1997, Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award given by the United States.

"Throughout his career, Gen. Shalikashvili was a tremendous leader and mentor to thousands of servicemen and women, and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he represented our nation and its military with great dignity and success," read a statement from the JBLM. "Locally, he has been a stalwart supporter to our military community, a trusted adviser to military leaders at the base and a friend to the entire region."

Shalikashvili is survived by his wife, Joan and their son, Brant.

An open memorial service is scheduled to be held on Aug. 6 at the Tacoma Convention Center. A funeral service will be held at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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