SEPTEMBER 17, 2014, WASHINGTON – To most Marines this man is a legend. To other Americans he would just be another veteran sporting tightly cropped white hair and a face worn from years of combat. When he speaks listeners hear sincerity, confidence and blunt wisdom. He is a legend among those new and old to the Corps – He is retired Marine Gen. James Mattis.
During the afternoon of September 13, 2014, Mattis visited the grounds of President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, to support No Greater Sacrifice 2014 Freedom Award Family Day.
“The Freedom Award is awarded to someone who gives in selfless service to the nation,” said Kanon Carlson, the Director of Foundation Operations for No Greater Sacrifice. “The recipient of the award embodies five core principles of: freedom, sacrifice, community, patriotism and esteem.”
During the award ceremony, Jeremiah Workman, a retired Marine, presented the Freedom Award to Mattis.
The Marines, who served under Mattis, testify to his leadership skills, influence on his subordinates and the care and sincerity he expresses when he speaks to people.
Mattis, born in Pullman, Washington, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history, Mattis was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in 1972.
Mattis served as an infantry officer throughout his career. He commanded units during several campaigns including: Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom and the initial attack and later operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Mattis retired, last year, after more than four decades of service.
“Gen. Mattis is one of the greatest military leaders that our generation has ever seen,” said Workman. “As many of you know, Gen. Mattis has served our country for more than 40 years leading men and women at all levels earning title and accolades along the way.”
During the ceremony, Workman described Mattis’ legacy, as he experienced it, amidst the occasional “Ooh-Rah!” shouted from the audience.
“He leads from the front, never asking more of his men than he was willing to give himself,” said Workman. “Through his example, Marines facing the worst possible circumstances found greater courage and resiliency.”
Mattis understood that battles aren’t just won in the mountains of Afghanistan and the streets of Iraq, so he also influenced policy makers on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and in the White House.
“This man stands for compassion and puts faith in his warriors,” said Workman. “When I came back from Iraq and hit a low spot, my cell phone rang one night and it was Gen. Mattis on the phone.
“He was there for me. Gen. Mattis took me under my wing and here I am today.”
As Gen. Mattis accepted the Freedom Award members of the audience took pictures and recorded his speech on their cell phones.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am not a very special Marine,” said Mattis. “I’m humbled to be here.
“For all of you who are here, what we stand in awe of is the courage of the men and women of the U.S. military. When you give education, you give a lot of people hope – That’s what No Greater Sacrifice does.”
As he closed his remarks, Mattis offered words of hope.
If you ever wonder about our future remember all the young people this organization assists, remember the service members, said Mattis. “We’ll get through these tough times. These young people will come up and get us back on the right track.”
As Mattis mingled with the families he listened to each person tell their story of their sacrifices to support the military.
The event featured many activities including: a civil war display with booths featuring civil war relics, and historical tours of the cottage where President Lincoln relaxed and signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“No Greater Sacrifice carries out an essential mission,” said Mattis. “Many of the guys lost in this war were very, very young when they died, which means their kids were even younger.
“So as the war drops off in many people’s memories the need for education scholarships is not going to grow it’s going to mushroom,” Mattis said . “They do a great job of getting the sons and daughters of our [killed-in-action] and our badly wounded into school.”