Twelve Days of Christmas, Day 2 – Gen. “Mad Dog” Gets Christmas Cookies

Photo illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Secretary of Defense appointee

How Mad Dog Mattis Got His
Christmas Cookies

A Christmas gesture that became a Christmas tale worth telling for many Christmases to come about our next Secretary of Defense.

By Michael Daly at The Daily Beast

In the week before Christmas in each of his four years as commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General Charles Krulak and his wife would set to baking cookies, cookies, cookies.

“We’re talking about hundreds of dozens of cookies,” Krulak recalled this week.
He further reported, “Always chocolate chip.”

Around 4 pm on Christmas Eve, they would load the cookies into their car and set out to deliver platefuls to all the Marines who were standing watch at the Marine facilities in the Washington, D.C. area.

Around midnight, just as Christmas Eve was turning to Christmas Day in 1998, they reached the most distant location, the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. They stopped at each of the many commands and facilities there.
“The last place we delivered them was at the headquarters of the commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command,” Krulak remembered.
The commandant’s wife, Zandi Krulak, had a plate of cookies ready and he took it into the guard shack, where he offered it along with season’s greetings to the staff sergeant on duty.

“Here’s your cookies,” Charles Krulak would recall saying. “I want to make sure you save some of them for the officer of the day.”

An officer was also supposed to be on duty, but Krulak saw no one else present.
“Where is the officer of the day?” Krulak asked.

“Sir, he’s out walking his post,” the staff sergeant said.
The staff sergeant meant the officer was checking the facility to ensure all was as it should be.

“Who is the officer of the day?” Krulak asked.
“Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis,” the staff sergeant replied.
“No, I’m not asking who is the general officer,” Krulak said.

Someone of Mattis’ high rank might have been expected to be serving as the duty officer for the whole base, but he would have been free to remain home and would have passed his holiday undisturbed unless something truly urgent arose.
“No, I don’t mean him,” Krulak said.

Krulak was only asking about the duty officer of the day (DOD) for that particular post. This task on Christmas would have been expected to go to the most junior of them.

“Who’s the DOD?” Krulak asked.
“Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis,” the staff sergeant said.
“Staff sergeant, again, I don’t mean who’s over all of the duty officers, who’s above all of them,” Krulak said. “Who is the duty officer?”
“Sir, it’s Brigadier General Mattis,” the staff sergeant said.
Krulak looked over at two cots that had been installed for the sergeant and for whichever officer was on duty.

“Okay, let me make it easy,” Krulak said. “Who slept in that cot over there?”
Krulak noted that by this point the staff sergeant was becoming a touch irritated.

“Sir, Brigadier General Mattis slept there,” the staff sergeant said.
At that moment, Krulak heard clicking shoe heels approaching down the marble hallway, joined by the clanking of a sword. Brigadier General James Mattis appeared, having been out walking his post in full dress uniform, complete with sword hanging at his hip.

“Jim, what are you doing standing duty?” Krulak asked.
“Sir, I checked the roster to see who would be standing duty on Christmas and one of the persons who was going to be standing duty was a man who had two young children,” Mattis said. “And, since I’m a bachelor, I figured why should I spend Christmas morning looking at my own little Christmas tree when we have a husband who’s got a wife and children who are going to miss their father because he is standing duty?”

Krulak would recall just shaking his head, amazed and admiring. His Christmas gesture of bringing the cookies had become a Christmas tale that would be worth telling for many Christmases to come.

“Well done, I’m proud of you, very proud of you,” Krulak told Mattis.
Eighteen years later, Mattis has gone from Christmas duty officer of the day to President-Elect Donald Trump’s pick as our next Secretary of Defense. He had in the meantime fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and acquired the nickname “Mad Dog Mattis,” which those who know him say attests only to the fierce warrior, not to the scholar and thoughtful commander who loves his fellow Marines. He was known to spend a night in a fighting hole with a sergeant and a lance corporal when he could have been snug in a cozy bed.

Mattis is one appointment in which even Trump’s opponents should be able to discern considerable merit.

“He’s a good one,” Krulak told the Daily Beast this week.

The story Krulak told of a remarkable moment in a Quantico guard shack back in 1998 suggests that at this time of year, a far better nickname than “Mad Dog Mattis” would be “Merry Christmas Mattis.”

So, call the tale “The Commandant’s Cookies and ‘Merry Christmas Mattis.’” Krulak answered the obvious question that arose at the end.
“Oh yeah, he got his cookies,” Krulak said.


The First Day of Christmas: Washington Crosses the Delaware


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