Retired General John Shalikashvili, an immigrant who rose to the position of Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1990s, has died. He was 75.
In a statement Saturday, President Barack Obama praised Shalikashvili as "a genuine soldier-statesman whose extraordinary life represented the promise of America" for those who choose to serve it. His cause of death was not immediately available.
Shalikashvili was born in Poland of Georgian parents. He came to the United States as a teen-ager, learned English from John Wayne movies and rose to become the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. military.
Shalikashvili served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, heading the U.S. role in NATO air strikes on Bosnian Serb military targets in 1995.
"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," President Obama said.