Two tours of duty in Vietnam and four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were among the accomplishments cited by The American Legion in its selection of Powell as its Distinguished Service Medal recipient in 1993.

The decorated general "served in increasingly responsible command positions throughout a distinguished military career," stated the National Executive Committee, also praising his direction of the U.S. military during the Persian Gulf War.

Powell served as national security adviser to President Reagan from 1987 to 1989. Following two terms as Joint Chiefs chairman under presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, he served as secretary of state under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.

In 1997, Powell opened the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at his alma mater, the City College of New York. He also served as chairman of America's Promise: The Alliance for Youth.

Throughout his political career, Powell has been considered a moderate. In 2008, he was touted as a possible running mate in Sen. John McCain's bid for the presidency. But an offer was never made, and just a few weeks before the election, Powell endorsed Democrat Barack Obama.

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