Washington, DC…Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said his recent presence at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, is an example of how Americans can help bridge political gaps. Mattis told CBS reporter John Dickerson today on Face the Nation that the 900-plus new Army officers who commissioned there this week come from all over the United States and probably represent every aspect of American life. “These people come together with an enthusiasm for protecting this experiment in democracy that we call America,” he said. “And it takes people, I believe, with a fundamental respect for one another, with a fundamental friendliness toward one another, that I worry is starting to slip away in our country.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before delivering the commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., May 27, 2017. U.S Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vito T. Bryant
Within the military, there is still that fundamental friendliness, the secretary said. “It’s a diverse force, it’s a force that can work together under the worst conditions,” he said. “I just hope we can find our way back to engaging with one another, arguing strongly with one another, and then going down and having a root beer together or something, and having a good laugh about it as we work together for the best interests of the next generation of Americans who are going to inherit this country.”
A ‘Humbling’ Life of Service
Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1969 and was commissioned in 1972. He retired from the Marine Corps as a four-star general in 2013. President Donald J. Trump nominated him to be defense secretary and he took office on January 20.
With more than 40 years of military service, the secretary said it is still humbling to be defense secretary. “It’s humbling, to tell you the truth, because as you go up, you realize how little – other than exercise good judgment – you really do,” he told Dickerson. “That it falls on the shoulders of very, very young people to carry this out inside the Department of Defense.”
Mattis served as an infantry officer. “The infantry are named because they’re young, infant soldiers, young soldiers how they got their name,” he said. “They’re very young.
“And so it’s really a humbling sense of just how great our younger generation is, how selfless it is, and what they are willing to commit – basically signing a blank check payable to the American people with their very lives to protect it. That’s really what I’ve come away from this job with is a deeper sense of just being humbled by the commitment of others.”
By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media