A buddy of mine recently sent me a link a to story regarding Marine General James Mattis who, during a speaking engagement back in 2005, claimed it was fun to shoot people and fun being shot at (and missed). I had never seen the story and my buddy was inquiring as to whether or not I had ever met this “bad ass” Marine during my time in the Corps. The answer was no. I served from 1967-1970 and General Mattis joined the Corps in 1972.
I don’t recall ever enjoying being shot at, watching my colleagues die or seeing them maimed for life. Though I felt no guilt about the killing of NVA soldiers, their death was not something to be celebrated.
The General’s comments made it seem as if combat is like a big bar brawl, calling himself a “brawler”. To me this sounded like the boast of a man who had never seen combat up close and personal. So I went to Wikipedia to review his career.
He joined the Corps too late to see combat in Vietnam and by the time of the Gulf War he was already a Senior Officer. And, as anyone who has ever served in the Marine Corps will tell you, senior officers rarely get shot at or actually kill anyone. It’s the field officers, (Captains and Lieutenants) and the enlisted men (from the Gunnery Sergeant on down) who do the actual fighting.
I will always be proud of my service as a Marine and the views of men like James Mattis are not representative of the brave Marines I served with in Vietnam. I wonder what his views would be if he had actually experienced lethal combat.
But thinking about his time of service, it occurred to me that those Marines who had served in Vietnam (and survived) were retired by now. It is doubtful that today’s senior officers in the Marine Corps, just by historical circumstance, have ever seen combat “up close and personal”.
This observation is in no way intended to question their leadership ability, intelligence or courage. I would like to believe, that unlike General Mattis, they understand that combat is not a game (and it is certainly not fun.) Instead it is a duty that requires sacrifice and courage in the service of our country.
The Marines with whom I served had more courage than most people could ever imagine and many of them made the ultimate sacrifice. In my opinion, General Mattis demonstrated nothing but disrespect for them, their wives, mothers and children, who had to greet a Marine at the door delivering the news about their sacrifice.
3 responses to “General Mattis-“It’s Fun to Shoot People””
Well said Dan.
I will forever be grateful for the brave men and women who have served(including my father) and are still serving and who gave their life for our country. They are not given enough credit for the job they do and often times forgotten when they return home. Thank you for standing up for them Dan! And Thank You for serving our country!
Dan – Great piece. I recently saw a stat that there were over 30 fragging attempts on Officers in Vietnam by subordinates. A newer book called the Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes framed the issue well. It doesn’t come as a huge surprise why subordinates who face real battle would want to take out the Officers who place so little value on their lives (this guy Mattis, had he seen real combat, would have been a likely fragging target). There was also the large racial divide inside the armed services which seemed to add a lot of fuel to the fire. Would be interested in your thoughts on the matter. Thanks for the great column, keep em coming.