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.

(HatTip to-Tom K – Thx warrior)


  1. I had the privilege to meet General Mattis at the GOS in 29 Palms. Myself, a Sgt at the time, and a LCpl flew in the CMC’s private jet from Washington DC to 29 Palms, CA. General Mattis was also on the jet. When we flew into Kansas City, MO, he came up to me and the LCpl and asked us if he could take our order, that he was practicing just in case this whole Marine Corps thing didnt work out. We respectfully joked that we wanted a Burger, Fries and Coke. 10 minutes later, here comes a General in the United States Marine Corps with 2 orders of food for the LCpl and I. He truly is a great leader, God Bless him!

  2. It was my privilege and honor to be attached to General Mattis’ unit during Desert Storm. His talks during the sandtables prior to the invasion were to the point and motivating.

  3. Loved reading this post and the following comments. General Mattis’ defense of his Marines during the hearings on DADT told me everything I needed to know about the character of this good man.

  4. I was assigned to Colonel Mattis at the stumps awhile ago. He found me repairing my trousers in the field with para cord guts and a needle under the cami net. His comment was, “Outstanding!” I watched him deal with alot of issues and win alot of wagers with other officers about what his men would get accomplished. A warrior leader and a fair, merciful man.

  5. Have a very Merry Christmas warriors, enjoy your family, remeber those that have sacrificed and given all, they are our nations heroes! Semper Fidelis & God Bless America

  6. From my limited dealing with the Gen. this is exactly the kind of mand and leader he is.
    In ’06 at MCAGCC 29 Palms at the end of the Commandant’s Executive Off-site he gave us a laugh. On the last day the Gen. had taken a Helo out to the training area for the ribbon-cutting/dedication of a new site.
    Returning, he flew directly to the Air Field to await the Commandant and his entourage (a bus load of Gen. Officers and their Ladies) who were enroute to depart. He walked up to where I was forming an Honor Guard indicating he would join our formation.
    When a spot was cleared in a senior position for him to take he said “today I’m the junior Marine in this formation.” The bus was still 10 min. or so out and he just stood there with us, smoking and joking like any L/Cpl doing the “hurry up and wait.”

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