The general sacked by Barack Obama as Afghanistan's coalition commander ended his 34-year army career in a retirement ceremony at his Washington military headquarters.
General Stanley McChrystal's retirement last night marked the last chapter of his swift and stunning fall from grace.
He inspired intense loyalty among many of those who served under him as International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) chief in Afghanistan, but was sacked last month after Rolling Stone magazine published an article quoting scathing remarks he and his aides made about their civilian bosses.
An aide close to the general, Colonel Charles Flynn, said General McChrystal had not made any employment decisions and planned to live in northern Virginia after moving out of his home in Washington's Fort McNair.
General McChrystal complained that President Obama had handed him "an unsellable position" on the war and the general's closest advisers mocked other government officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, as fools ignorant of the complexities of war.
One aide was quoted as saying: "Biden? Did you say: 'Bite me?'"
Shortly after the article was published, General McChrystal was sent to pack his bags.
General McChrystal said goodbye before a few hundred friends, family and colleagues on the Fort McNair parade grounds, where the VIP-studded crowd wilted in an oppressive July heatwave.
Soldiers attending the ceremony were allowed to forgo their formal dress uniforms for combat fatigues, a seeming tribute to a war commander fresh from battle and whose career was marked by more secret operations to snatch terror suspects than by pomp and circumstance.
Wearing his own army combat uniform for the last time, the four-star general received full military honours, including a 17-gun salute from four howitzers and flag formations by the US Army's Old Guard.
He smiled and nodded at members in the crowd and appeared to joke with defence secretary Robert Gates, who had a hand in sacking him, albeit reluctantly.
Mr Gates gave McChrystal a hero's tribute.
"Over the past decade, arguably no single American has inflicted more fear, more loss of freedom and more loss of life on our country's most vicious and violent enemies than Stan McChrystal," Mr Gates said.
Afghanistan's top representative to the US said his country would remember General McChrystal for generations to come.
"We will never forget the sacrifices that you and those under your command have made to make Afghanistan safer for our children," ambassador Said Jawad said.
Senior military and defence officials said they agreed with Mr Obama's decision to sack the general, but were crestfallen by the loss of a gifted colleague.
During his rise to one of the nation's top military jobs, General McChrystal made many allies - including Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - who saw him as an honest broker with extraordinary self-discipline.
Admiral Mullen was among those who said he was crushed by the episode.
"He is a friend," he said of General McChrystal shortly after his sacking. "He's an extraordinary officer. He made a severe mistake."
Last year Mr Gates gave General McChrystal the job of turning around a stalemated war against Afghanistan's stubborn insurgency.
General McChrystal was a seasoned special operations commander who made his reputation hunting down members of al-Qaida in Iraq and helping turn around the course of that war.
He was named to replace General David McKiernan, who was removed from his post by an Obama administration eager to chart a new course in the war.
The White House is allowing General McChrystal to keep his four stars in retirement, even though army rules would have required him to serve another two years at that rank.
Col Flynn said the general "remains undecided about future employment options".