Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll salutes during the playing of the “Admiral’s March” before his retirement ceremony aboard the USS Arizona Memorial, June 20. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Kolmel)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - During an emotional tribute on the decks of the USS Arizona Memorial, family, friends and colleagues gathered to honor Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll's 34 years of honorable Navy service during his retirement ceremony June 20.

"He is a combat vet, flying ace, a passionate leader, dedicated husband and caring father," said Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Cecil Haney. "As a highly decorated naval aviator, his flying career is the stuff of legends. Whenever our nation was in need of air warriors, Pat Driscoll answered the call to fly and lead in combat."

Driscoll completed his final Navy tour as U.S. Pacific Fleet's deputy commander and chief of staff. The Homewood, Ill., native entered the Navy through the aviation officer candidate program following graduation from the University of Illinois and received his commission in January 1979.

Logging more than 5,000 flight hours in three different aircraft - the S-3 Viking, the A-7E Corsair, and the F/A-18 Hornet - Driscoll completed more than 1,200 aircraft carrier landings during a career that included air combat missions in Iraq during the first Gulf War and again in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

Driscoll was also the commanding officer and flight leader of The Blue Angels for the 1999 and 2000 air show seasons.

"For two years, Pat's team awed countless spectators and inspired the next generation of naval aviators," said Haney.

Awarding Driscoll with the Distinguished Service Medal, Haney personally praised his deputy commander for helping to guide the Navy's largest Fleet during the current U.S. rebalance strategy to the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

"You provided important insights that continue to influence how we engage and how we advocate for improved capability in the U.S. Pacific Fleet," Haney said. "Your leadership has made our Navy better and will have a lasting impact on the people you have led over your career."

In his remarks, Driscoll talked about how all he ever wanted to do was fly for the Navy.

"As a Naval officer and aviator it's been exhilarating, awe inspiring, frightening, educating and heartbreaking," Driscoll said.

Driscoll also talked about how his wife Carol - a Nurse Corps officer who retired as a Navy Commander after 20 years of service - and how she not only supported him but also how she selflessly advocated for Navy families throughout his long career.

He explained how she was essentially a "single mom" to their three children because of how much he was gone from home due to deployments. She ran scholarship fund raisers for aviation families, hosted important dignitaries, and held the hands of grieving widows as they were told their loved ones had died defending the nation.

Driscoll finished his remarks by honoring the memories of the Sailors that lost their lives onboard the USS Arizona and those that he flew with that did not make it home to their families.

"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about my friends and my shipmates that I flew with that were not nearly as lucky as me; those that did not make it back to the carrier, that did not make it back to their families. They did not have the opportunity to help raise their children and take care of their parents. So as I get ready to go ashore for the last time I want to take this final opportunity on this great Navy memorial to recognize those I flew with, those I was responsible for, and those that paid the ultimate price for our nation," Driscoll concluded.

Driscoll will be relieved as the U.S. Pacific Fleet deputy commander and chief of staff by Rear Adm. Robert Girrier, who is currently serving as the director for operations at U.S. Pacific Command.

Rear Adm. Driscoll addresses the audience during his retirement ceremony aboard the USS Arizona Memorial. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Kolmel)

Rear Adm. Driscoll receives the Distinguished Service Medal from Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, during his retirement ceremony aboard the USS Arizona Memorial. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Kolmel)