I know the author of this great article about your new Secretary of Defense. Heart warming to say the least. While his moniker of “Mad Dog” makes the liberals fear him, they know not about what they speak. Of course, that’s not unusual for them.
Letter to the editor: My friendship with Gen. Jim Mattis
By Jack Matthews
I first met then-Maj. Jim Mattis, U.S. Marines, in 1984 when he was a student at the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College at Quantico, Virginia. While I was a tactics instructor at the college, he and I formed a friendship that has lasted for the past 33 years.
In the summer of 2009 I had arranged for a foot surgeon at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., to reconstruct my left foot. I had been wounded in Vietnam and after 13 surgeries I was hoping that this doctor at Georgetown could finally fix the problem.
I called then-Gen. Jim Mattis, Commander Joint Forces Command, and asked him if I could recuperate at his quarters for a few days at the Norfolk Naval Base.
Long story short, post operation the foot became infected and gangrene had set in. Gen. Mattis immediately arranged for me to meet with the orthopedic surgeons at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital, and as soon as they saw the foot they determined that it had to be amputated. Thus on Oct. 30, 2009, my left foot came off.
The navy surgeons performed what is called an ERTL procedure on me, where in essence they constructed a bone bridge between the fibula and tibia.
What was initially designed to be a very short stay with the general eventually turned into 17 weeks of me living in the Virginia House aboard the Norfolk naval base.
What I would like the reader to appreciate is that I was confined to a wheelchair for those 17 weeks with my mobility severely curtailed. I simply cannot count the number of times Jim Mattis carried my wheelchair up or downstairs, so we could eat together and just visit.
The general had a very demanding schedule and was often absent from the Virginia House. But whenever he was home, he would routinely take me in my wheelchair for walks out to see the naval ships that were tied up along the piers. Oftentimes it was cold as hell in December as the general wheeled me about, and the conversation would frequently gravitate to us talking about my heroes: “The Chosen Few.” (The First Marine Division’s epic withdrawal from the Chosen Reservoir in December 1950.)
In December 2009, Gen. Mattis hosted a Christmas Party for all the navy folks — surgeons, nurses and corpsmen — who attended to me while I was a patient in the hospital before and after the amputation. To their credit, they all wanted to have their pictures taken with the general in front of the Christmas tree.
During this whole process Gen. Jim Mattis taught me the meaning of friendship and what it meant to be a real friend. Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager said it far better than I ever could:
“Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for.”
Gen. Mattis came to Bend in January 2010 to see me on his way to visit his mother in Richland, Washington. We had arranged to have a luncheon in his honor at the Broken Top Club. After the lunch the general was going to address a large gathering in the Great Room at Broken Top. It was obviously my job to introduce him to the audience.
When I stepped up to the podium all I could think of was Gen. Mattis’ kindness, generosity, and friendship and how he welcomed me at the Virginia House, particularly all those wheelchair rides. Before I could say a word I broke down in front of all those in attendance. Trying to get it together, I told all those in the Great Room that I was sorry, and then turned to Gen. Jim Mattis and with tears in my eyes, and simply said, “Thank you.”
That’s your new secretary of defense.
Retired Lt. Col. Jack Matthews, of the U.S. Marines, lives in Bend.