17th

A General Mattis Christmas Story

December 2010

By

Featured from the National Museum of the Marine Corps Museum’s Facebook Page

A couple of months ago, when I told General Krulak, the former Commandant of the Marine Corps, now the chair of the Naval Academy Board of Visitors, that we were having General Mattis speak this evening, he said, “Let me tell you a Jim Mattis story.” General Krulak said, when he was Commandant of the Marine Corps, every year, starting about a week before Christmas, he and his wife would bake hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Christmas cookies. They would package them in small bundles.

 Then on Christmas day, he would load his vehicle. At about 4 a.m., General Krulak would drive himself to every Marine guard post in the Washington-Annapolis-Baltimore area and deliver a small package of Christmas cookies to whatever Marines were pulling guard duty that day. He said that one year, he had gone down to Quantico as one of his stops to deliver Christmas cookies to the Marines on guard duty. He went to the command center and gave a package to the lance corporal who was on duty.

 He asked, “Who’s the officer of the day?” The lance corporal said, “Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis.” And General Krulak said, “No, no, no. I know who General Mattis is. I mean, who’s the officer of the day today, Christmas day?” The lance corporal, feeling a little anxious, said, “Sir, it is Brigadier General Mattis.”

 General Krulak said that, about that time, he spotted in the back room a cot, or a daybed. He said, “No, Lance Corporal. Who slept in that bed last night?” The lance corporal said, “Sir, it was Brigadier General Mattis.”

About that time, General Krulak said that General Mattis came in, in a duty uniform with a sword, and General Krulak said, “Jim, what are you doing here on Christmas day? Why do you have duty?” General Mattis told him that the young officer who was scheduled to have duty on Christmas day had a family, and General Mattis decided it was better for the young officer to spend Christmas Day with his family, and so he chose to have duty on Christmas Day.

General Krulak said, “That’s the kind of officer that Jim Mattis is.”

The story above was told by Dr. Albert C. Pierce, the Director of the Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics at The United States Naval Academy. He was introducing General James Mattis who gave a lecture on Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Conflict in the spring of 2006. This was taken from the transcript of that lecture.




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  • KhakiPants

    Leading by example. Clearly General Mattis knew (and knows) what it’s about!

  • William Parkes

    This is one of the most heart-warming stories I’ve ever heard.

  • Amy King

    General Mattis came to speak to spouses at 29 Palms in February 2004, right after most of the base had deployed to Iraq. The first ten or so minutes was the usual stuff, but then he said something that has stuck in my brain ever since and makes me love this man. He said, “Your husbands are some of the most cocky, arrogant sons of bitches I have ever met. And I love each one of them like they are my sons. I promise you I will do everything within my power to bring each and every one of them home safe to you.” Although Marines within the 7th Marine Regiment were hit hard and we lost a lot of Marines, I will never forget what he said. I do believe that each loss was very painful for him as well as the families the Marines left behind.

  • http://sonofneocles.blogspot.com/ shaun

    Below are links to the complete talk by General Mattis. Riveting, as well as including the introduction by Dr. Pierce, story relayed to him by then Supe Adm. Rempt.

    http://www.usna.edu/Ethics/audio/mattis1.mp3

    http://www.usna.edu/Ethics/audio/mattis2.mp3

    http://www.usna.edu/Ethics/audio/mattis3.mp3

  • Byron

    Thanks! When I get home I’ll have to listen. I got 40 minutes of speech from him that had my old behind ready to grab a ruck and a weapon. I have an enormous amount of respect for the Warrior Monk.

  • Mark

    He missed the mark. He should have sent the LCpl home.

    • Sup dood

      As far as I know, at any duty station, 2 Marines are required, 1 Duty and 1 A Duty. He couldn’t send the LCpl home.

  • SGM DeGuerrero

    Leadership example looking out for the welfare of his Marines! A perfect example of leading from the front and taking care of your Marines!

    Semper Fidels

  • http://www.ldhcorp.com Butch Howard

    Gen. Mattis and many others like him are the reason the United States Marine Corps is the finest military organization ever created. All leaders, military or civilian, would do well to follow his example of leadership and personal concern for his Marines. Merry Christmas & Semper Fidelis!

  • http://www.devildogbrew.com Major Hank Salmans

    Gunny Tocci shared this story with me today. Simply outstanding.
    Semper Fi,
    Major & Mustang, Hank Salmans
    USMC (Retired)

  • Guest

    I shot of my mouth at the ripe old age of 18? once within earshot of a Marine…for some reason, the importance long forgotten, repeating what I’d learned at Great Lakes NTC shortly before this scene: “…[organization-chart-wise in the D.O.D.] the Marine Corps is PART of the Navy.” To which the Marine *INSTANTLY* !!! inserted: “Yeah–the BEST part.” Years later, I privileged to work w/ USMC civilian business colleagues (e.g. U.P.I.); the quality of character, integrity, leadership displayed by this General is, pleasantly–and so as to humble–no surprise. I honor my Navy Marine Corps shipmates on this 7 DEC. USN mustang (Journalist & PAO) (Retired)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChristopherChrisHaskell Christopher Haskell

    I shot off my mouth at the ripe old age of 18? once within earshot of a Marine…for some reason, the importance long forgotten, repeating what I’d learned at Great Lakes NTC shortly before this scene: “…[organization-chart-wise in the D.O.D.] the Marine Corps is PART of the Navy.” To which the Marine *INSTANTLY* !!! inserted: “Yeah–the BEST part.” Years later, I was privileged to work w/ USMC vet business colleagues (e.g. U.P.I.); the quality of character, integrity, leadership displayed by this General is, pleasantly–and so as to humble–no surprise. I honor my Navy Marine Corps shipmates on this 7 DEC. USN mustang (Journalist & PAO) (Retired)

  • Arman

    Any Nation should be proud to have such devoted and distinguished person/general like Jim Mattis. Getting to know him is a great privilege and very special opportunity to learn about true leadership.

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