Dec. 31 is Jim Mattis’ last day as U.S. Defense Secretary, and he sent a farewell letter to the entire Defense Department.
Here is what it says:
“On February 1, 1865, President Lincoln sent to General Ulysses S. Grant a one sentence telegram. It read: “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans.”
Our Department’s leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands. I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life. Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.
It has been my high honor to serve at your side. May God hold you safe on the air, on land, and at sea.”
Mattis, 68, is a retired four-star Marine Corps general with a career spanning more than four decades. He previously headed the U.S. Central Command overseeing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Donald Trump recently announced that Mattis will leave his post at the end of this year, two months earlier than expected. This came after the President’s seemingly abrupt announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing all troops from Syria, and Mattis’ subsequent resignation which followed, when he announced that he would leave his post at the end of February 2019.
While Trump has said in the past that he would like to withdraw all troops from Syria, Defense Secretary Mattis said this fall that troops would remain in Syria to complete their mission of defeating ISIS so the terrorist group cannot mount a comeback.
There are more than 5,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, which neighbors Syria to the east.
Mattis resigned earlier this month after Trump announced that the U.S. will withdraw all troops from Syria.
In his resignation letter, Mattis cited differences of opinion with Trump, saying, “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed […].”
Trump later tweeted that Mattis will leave his post effective Jan. 1, 2019 – two months earlier than expected.
Mattis was the most approved member of the Trump Administration and hailed as one of the greatest military minds of our time.