Secretary of Defense Marine Gen. James Mattis is a man’s man, a bad a** who once advised “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
But the following story about what Mattis did for a young officer with a family on Christmas Day in 1998 will absolutely warm your heart.
The story was originally told by Marine Gen. Charles Krulak and relayed prior to a 2006 lecture by Dr. Albert C. Pierce, founding director of the Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics.
Listen to Pierce’s version of the story below …
General Mattis Christmas Story
Every year, Gen. Krulak and his wife baked countless cookies in the days ahead of Christmas, put them in little packages and, beginning at 0400 on Christmas Day, he would deliver cookies to all the Marine duty posts around Washington.
Making his final delivery of the day, Gen. Krulak asked the Marine Lance Corporal on duty who the officer of the day was.
The answer: “Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.”
Normally, of course, the officer of the day would’ve been a junior officer, not a general officer.
According to Krulak, he replied to the Corporal, “No, I know who Gen. Mattis is. I mean, who’s the officer of the day?”
The young Marine gave the same response: “Sir, General Mattis.”
“I looked around the duty hut. In the back there were two cots: One for the officer of the day and one for the enlisted Marine. I said, ‘OK, who was the officer who slept on that cot last night?’”
“The Corporal said again, ‘Sir, General Mattis.’”
No sooner had the question been answered a third time than BG Mattis entered the room.
Krulak recalls, “So I said to him, ‘Jim, what are you standing the duty for?’ And he said, ‘Sir, I looked at the duty roster for today and there was a young major who had it, who is married with a family. I’m a bachelor and I thought, “Why should the major miss out on the fun of having Christmas with his family?” And so I took the duty for him.’”
Krulak concluded, “It says volumes about Jim Mattis and his leadership style. He did it very unobtrusively. He just took the duty.”
“Gen. Mattis once famously said he likes to shoot Taliban, so no one is going to call him a softie,” writes Stars and Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol. “But by standing duty so that a young Marine could spend Christmas with his family, he showed you don’t have to be heartless to be a leader.”
If you enjoyed this story, please like and share on social media!