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Gen. James Mattis resurfaces to dedicate new veterans memorial, leadership library in Washington

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) David L. Norquist and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. testify on the DoD posture and fiscal year 2019 budget to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Washington, D.C., April 26, 2018. (DoD photo by Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm)

“To make lives of others better.”

Sgt. Dietrich Schmieman’s words can be found by the hero tree at the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus.

The Richland native died in a 2017 when his military cargo plane crashed in Mississippi but his message lives on for those who visit the newly revamped WSU Veterans Memorial on the Richland campus.

His parents and another Richland native, retired Gen. James Mattis, were on hand Tuesday for the dedication.

“The epitome of leading, lies in serving others,” Mattis told the gathering. “… Forget all of the leadership theory that you read at business school.”

The former U.S. defense secretary came to the Richland campus for the unveiling of the expanded veterans memorial and a new leadership library named in his honor.

The Stories Veterans Memorial features a sculpture inscribed with stories from regional veterans. It was initially installed in 2012.

The expansion includes a new concrete base, flag poles for the American flag and flags from all of the service branches. And the Schmieman family donated benches for the site.

And the leadership library is part of a renovation of the campus Veterans Center.

The library was made possible through the efforts of C. Mark Smith and the Richland Rotary Club of the Tri-Cities. It houses books cited by Mattis in his autobiography, “Call Sign Chaos.”

The effort was initiated by veterans and by WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Sandra Haynes.

Mattis’ reading list draws from across the breadth of history, such as Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs, Colin Powell’s “My American Journey,” and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations.”

Mattis said the challenges those leaders faced are timeless.

And he said the quality of a leader can determine the strength and performance of an organization.

“Life is too short to learn everything by experience,” Mattis told reporters after the event. “In these books we can find situations that are similar to what we confront today. … We can study how women and men in the past have dealt with situations successfully or unsuccessfully.”


(c) 2021 Tri-City Herald

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