Defense Secretary James Mattis, who resigned from his post on Thursday after President Trump announced he was withdrawing American troops from Syria, taped a Christmas message to American troops the day before he resigned.
Mattis, who is much beloved by the troops, stated:
Since Washington crossed the Delaware, at Christmas of 1776, American troops have missed holidays at home to defend our experiment in democracy. To all you lads and lasses holding the line in 2018, on land, at sea, or in the air, thanks for keeping the faith. Merry Christmas and may God hold you safe.
According to Military Times, on Sunday, Mattis signed the order to withdraw an estimated 2,200 U.S. forces from Syria, as the Pentagon acknowledged.
On Monday, President Trump targeted Mattis on Twitter, writing, “We are substantially subsidizing the Militaries of many VERY rich countries all over the world, while at the same time these countries take total advantage of the U.S., and our TAXPAYERS, on Trade. General Mattis did not see this as a problem. I DO, and it is being fixed!”
Meanwhile, there was a bipartisan call for Trump to replace Mattis with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson; leftist Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) echoed Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) with his endorsement. Ernst tweeted, “I’ve seen firsthand Air Force Sec Heather Wilson’s leadership for our men and women in uniform – she would make a great Secretary of Defense and make our country proud.” Lieu echoed, “I agree with @SenJoniErnst that Heather Wilson would be a great Secretary of Defense. Wilson embodies the core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.”
The Marines issued a statement about Mattis resigning, saying, “like Marines everywhere, we are thankful for General Mattis’ more than forty years of service to the nation and the Marine Corps. While we are sorry to see his tenure as SECDEF end, whether on 1 Jan or 28 Feb, we are confident that his legacy as a leader and warfighter will continue to impact our military for years to come.”
Mattis spent 44 years in the Marines; he ultimately became a four-star general; he retired as the top leader of U.S. Central Command in 2013.
A typical Mattis story, as reported by Business Insider: Nate Fick, a former Marine captain who first served as a 2nd lieutenant under Mattis while he was in charge of Task Force 58 in Afghanistan, recalled a night in December 2001 at the Marines’ patrol base in Kandahar.
Fick had told his platoon that two men should stay awake all night on perimeter security while the rest of the group slept. He said, “I was out walking the lines one night at 2, maybe 3 a.m. As I got closer, I saw a third head.” Fick said he was angry that an extra Marine had stayed up or had deserted another post they were supposed to guard, but suddenly realized, “It was General Mattis. He had stopped to talk to the sergeant and the lance corporal.” Fick concluded, “Nobody would’ve criticized Mattis if he had a lieutenant like me heating up his MREs and if he stayed inside to sleep on a cot.”