American Defense Secretary James Mattis was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Public Service Award from Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs at the National Press Club on Tuesday for his “commitment to citizenship and public leadership.”

Mattis told the audience that he was humbled by the award, claiming, “It’s not about me. It’s about public service. We’re trying to build a country here, and it’s never done.”

Mattis, as well as Trevor Brown, the dean of Glenn College, both used their opportunities to speak to discuss the college’s namesake, recently departed U.S. Senator John Glenn.  Glenn, who made history as an astronaut when he became the first American ever to orbit the earth, also served as a Marine fighter pilot in World War II and Korea.  He earned six Distinguished Flying Crosses and several Air Medals before making the move to NASA, and eventually the Senate.

According to the dean of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, it was particularly important to him this year that the award go to someone Glenn had a great deal of respect for, and that man, according to Brown, is fellow Marine James Mattis.

“There’s no question that Secretary Mattis is deserving of this award tonight,” he said. “This is in part the college’s way to fulfill its commitment to the senator — to bind someone he revered in his life to the life of the college.”

Glenn’s daughter, Lynn Glenn, echoed Brown’s sentiments, explaining that her father had a “great admiration” for Secretary Mattis.  Lynn Glenn explained that the admiration went much deeper than simple service comradery: “not just that he’s a Marine, but also because he’s a tremendous patriot and has been a patriot like Dad for all his life. That’s been his commitment.”

Lynn Glenn then gave Mattis a needlepoint she made that depicts Doublemint gum, a gesture born out of her family’s tradition whenever her father would go on dangerous missions.  John Glenn, she explained, would give each member of his family a stick of gum as he departed, and then tell them “I’m just going to the store.  I’ll be back.”

“Dad gave each of us in the family a stick of Doublemint when he went back into space when he was 77,” she said.  Now, she makes needlepoint Doublemint gum sticks for people who have played important roles in her family, were pivotal to her father’s service, or who brought meaning to his life.