When I was a young Marine at the age of 19 General Mattis was in charge of the Marines on the ground in Iraq. I definitely felt he was our generation’s Patton back then. Now he’s Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Defense.
There’s many stories circulating about General Mattis. One that stood out the last few days is the story of when Mattis was a one star general taking the place of another Marine’s much dreaded holiday “duty.” Here’s the account as given by someone in 2010:
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.”
I get goosebump reading this because its not everyday you see a high commander with the rank of Brigadier General taking on such a lowly duty. The closest analogy I can think of in the civilian world is an executive for a business firm telling a security supervisor he can have Christmas day off because the executive was going to take his Christmas day shift. Except the shift is 24 hours.
Its stories like these that leaves a strong impression among young Marines. It is stories like these that makes Marines feel that General Mattis cares about the troops. If you know anything about young Marines they can be very cynical towards higher ups but I was surprised how fiercely loyal junior Marines can be towards General Mattis.
Yet when I hear this Christmas story of General Mattis I can’t help but to think of another story of great humility and of a great exchange. I think of my Savior Jesus Christ who though He was God (John 1:1, 8:58, etc), yet humbled Himself and became a Man (John 1:14) and eventually went so low as to die on the cross for our sins. We’re not just talking about a one star general here. We’re not even talking about a four star general nor a president or a king; when we are talking about Jesus, we are talking about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and God of very God Himself!
Have you marveled at God the Son becoming Incarnate to Save Sinners?