Mattis Delivers Pep Talk to U.S. Troops in Jordan: 'The Only Reason I Came Back Is to Serve Alongside Young People Like You'

August 27, 2017

Secretary of Defense James Mattis gave an unscripted pep talk last week to a group of servicemen on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State.

Mattis was in Iraq on Tuesday for a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, Task and Purpose reports. But he later stopped off to deliver a pep talk to American troops stationed in Jordan, on the front lines of Operation Inherent Resolve.

His remarks were captured by one of the servicemen there, then posted to the "U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments" Facebook page.

Mattis greeted the assembled crowd to appreciative laughter.

"For those of you I haven't met, my name's Mattis. I work at the Department of Defense obviously," the retired Marine Corps general said.

He recognized the way in which enlisted men can sometimes feel alienated from people like him, and explained how grateful he was for their service.

"I'm just grateful. The only way this great big experiment you and I call America is going to survive is if we've got tough hombres like you," Mattis said. "Remember, some of you are too young, but on 9/11 we racked up against an enemy who thought that if he could hurt us he could scare us. But we don't freakin' scare. That's the bottom line."

Mattis then spoke to the degree of political and social polarization back in the U.S., emphasizing how the military could serve as an example of unity.

"You're buying time, you're a great example for our country right now. It's got some problems, you know it and I know it. It's got problems that we don't have in the military. You just hold the line. my fine young soldiers, sailors, air men, Marines. You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it, and being friendly to one another," he said.

"You know that Americans owe to one another, we're so doggone lucky to be Americans, and we've got two powers: the power of inspiration, and you'll get the power of inspiration's back, we've got the power of intimidation, and that's you if someone wants to screw with our family, our countries, our allies," he said.

He thanked the men again for their service, and told them that he came out of retirement precisely to serve alongside people like them.

"The only reason I came back is to serve alongside young people like you who are so selfless and, frankly, so rambunctious. It's a pleasure to be around you all," he said.

UPDATED 2:29 P.M.: This article earlier stated Mattis said "people like you who are so selfish" rather than "so selfless." This has been corrected.