Read Mattis's Final Communique To Those In Uniform "Keeping Watch By Night" Over Christmas07/10/2019
Just a few days before his now infamous resignation letter hit the White House like a wrecking ball, Secretary of Defense James Mattis sent a communique out to the commands under his purview to remind those in uniform of what their sacrifices over the holidays really mean, as well as their historical context. The message, which is uniquely moving for such a straightforward piece of correspondence, now stands as something of a specter of what was.
A belatedly furious President Trump has ordered Mattis out of his role now instead of in February—a timeline Trump himself originally put forward. As it currently sits, ex-Boeing executive turned Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan will be taking the reins of the DoD on January 1, 2019. But above all else, this communique is a reminder of the unique talent and rich perspective that was lost with Mattis’s abrupt and turbulent exit from the Pentagon.
The retired Marine General with multiple colorful nicknames has always been most comfortable surrounded by young sailors, soldiers, airmen, and Marines. Preferring the fox hole to the war room and the chow hall to a Washington D.C. steak house, it is well known that Mattis’ greatest joy is spending time with the warfighters he commands. His impromptu and often unfiltered pep talks to personnel in the field have made news on multiple occasions and really highlight how different of a Secretary of Defense he really was.
Also a historian with thousands of books on his shelf, the “Warrior Monk” often injects deep historical perspective in his decision making and the carefully calculated advice he offers. His communique dated December 18th, 2018 highlights all these traits. It is almost a perfect sample of James Mattis the idea and the man. The message, written by Mattis and released by DoD Executive Secretary Captain Hallock Mohler, reads:
R 192339Z DEC 18
FM SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUEKJCS/SECDEF COMMUNICATIONS WASHINGTON DC
SUBJ/HOLIDAY MESSAGE 2018
ADDRESSEES PASS TO ALL SUBORDINATE COMMANDS
1. WE IN THE U.S. MILITARY ARE PRIVILEGED TO DEFEND AMERICA, ESPECIALLY AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, FOR WE ENSURE OUR FELLOW AMERICANS CELEBRATE THIS SEASON OF HOPE IN PEACE AND SAFETY.
2. WE KNOW OUR FREEDOMS ARE NOT GUARANTEED BY THEMSELVES; THEY NEED DEFENDERS.
3. THIS MONTH, MANY IN OUR MILITARY WILL BE SERVING FAR FROM THEIR LOVED ONES. IT IS DIFFICULT WORK, BUT THIS IS NOTHING NEW: SINCE WASHINGTON CROSSED THE DELAWARE ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN 1776, AMERICAN TROOPS HAVE MISSED HOLIDAYS TO DEFEND OUR CITIZENS’ EXPERIMENT IN DEMOCRACY.
4. TO THOSE IN THE FIELD OR AT SEA, “KEEPING WATCH BY NIGHT” THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, YOU SHOULD RECOGNIZE THAT YOU CARRY ON THE PROUD LEGACY OF THOSE WHO STOOD THE WATCH IN DECADES PAST. IN THIS WORLD AWASH IN CHANGE, YOU HOLD THE LINE.
5. STORM CLOUDS LOOM, YET BECAUSE OF YOU YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS LIVE SAFE AT HOME. MOST DON’T KNOW YOUR NAMES BUT ALL ARE CONFIDENT THEIR FREEDOMS AND THEIR FAMILIES WILL BE KEPT SAFE.
6. FAR FROM HOME, YOU HAVE EARNED THE GRATITUDE AND RESPECT OF YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS AND IT REMAINS MY GREAT PRIVILEGE TO SERVE ALONGSIDE YOU.
7. MERRY CHRISTMAS AND MAY GOD HOLD YOU SAFE.
RELEASED BY: CAPT HALLOCK MOHLER JR., DOD EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
James Mattis wasn’t perfect, there were some things I didn’t like during his time as Secretary of Defense, but those things were far outweighed by the things I did. Maybe what’s most impressive, is that he garnered near universal respect across both sides of the isle.
The fact that a lifelong military man who made a career following orders had to leave a job he clearly loved and the military family that has surrounded him his entire adult life due to the baffling decisions and actions of the Commander In Chief is extremely troubling. That being said, hopefully we won’t see the last of him, although I doubt he has any political aspirations as some have posited. Then again, it is James Mattis we are talking about here, so if he is called upon to serve, there’s a probably a good chance he will answer the call if the premise is logical.
On a personal note, to all our military personnel that will spend the holidays away from loved ones in chilly watch towers, dimly lit bunkers, dusty forward operating bases, alert barns on windswept airfields, and stacked three high above and below the waves, thank you from all of us here at The War Zone and The Drive!
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