Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford was awarded France's high order of merit during a ceremony Thursday.

French Chief of Defense Gen. Pierre de Villiers presented Dunford with the Legion of Honor for his "dedication to improving the military-to-military relationship" between France and the United States, according to a Defense Department release. 

The award recognizes Dunford for "the remarkable role he plays in the security of the world," especially "against armed terrorist groups that shock us with their brutality," de Villiers said.

Both Dunford and de Villiers praised the close and longstanding relationship between the U.S. and French militaries.

"As we are standing here, our soldiers are together in West Africa, they are together in Libya, they are together in Syria, they are together in Afghanistan and we are operating together in the South Pacific," Dunford said.

The U.S. headed the French Bastille Day parade as the country of honor to commemorate the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I and the longstanding partnership between the two countries.