Defense Secretary James Mattis has a reputation as a no-nonsense public speaker, and perhaps one of the most quotable war fighters of the modern era. During his tenure in the United States Marine Corps, Mattis secured his place in the hearts of American service members with memorable statements like, “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f— with me, I’ll kill you all.”
Of course, not everyone has shared in the military’s enthusiasm for Mattis-isms. In 2005, the Marine General earned the ire of some lawmakers and pundits alike when he was speaking about fighting in Afghanistan.
You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” He continued: “Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”
Although his statements served to further solidify his legendary status among the Marines that served beneath him, even the Commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, Gen. Michael Hagee, felt the need to address his commentary, telling the press that Mattis “often speaks with a great deal of candor.”
In a new video that surfaced over the weekend, Mattis continued with his trend of being a leader who relates directly to the service members fighting on behalf of our nation, when he approached a group of deployed troops in Jordan and delivered an impromptu speech to relay his gratitude for their service, and touching upon the current political climate back home in the United States.
Notably, as the American Secretary of Defense approached the group of service members, he felt the need to identify himself – which he did without providing title, or even first name: “My name’s Mattis … I work at the Department of Defense, obviously.”
While in type, it seems possible that Mattis’ humble approach to the men and women serving our country may have been a contrived bit of humility, but hearing the man say it quickly removes any doubt that the Secretary of Defense doesn’t think of himself as anything but another person working alongside the troops, rather than many stations above them.
The only way this great big experiment you and I call America is going to survive is we got tough hombres like you. Some of you are too young, Cpl. Walton, but on 9/11 we were up against an enemy that thought if he could hurt us he could scare us, but we don’t fricken scare. That’s the bottom line.” Mattis said to the crowd that quickly assembled.
You’re a great example for our country right now,” he goes on, “we’ve got some problems, you know it and I know it. We’ve got problems that we don’t have in the military, and you just hold the line, my fine young Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other, of being friendly with one another, ya know, that Americans owe to one another. We’re so dog gone lucky to be Americans. We’ve got two powers, the power of inspiration, and we’ll get the power of inspiration back, and we’ve got the power of intimidation, and that’s you.”
Mattis ends his comments to the group of service members by explaining that he came back because he “flunked retirement,” but also because he wanted to serve next to people like America’s military personnel, whom he referred to as “selfless.”
Check out the complete video below:
Image courtesy of the Dept. of Defense