You never know who you are going to run into when the President of the United States addresses Congress.
Rounding a corner in the Capitol building approximately one hour before Trump’s speech Tuesday night, I ran directly into a group of veterans attempting to get a photo with none other than Secretary of Defense James Mattis. One of the soldiers looked at me desperately for assistance in taking the photo. I obliged and afterwards introduced myself to the Secretary.
“Hi, I’m Jim,” Mattis, the American military legend said casually, gripping my hand. I asked how his transition was going at the Pentagon:
Oh, it’s so good to be back. I had to get away for a while to really appreciate it. People in our military are just incredible. We work as a cohesive unit. Everyone has a duty and a job to do. My staff view it as the highest honor and privilege, getting to work at the Pentagon every day.
I treat the people inside that building like my family.
When I go down to get my laundry in the basement, I factor in ten extra minutes every trip just so I can talk with people. Ya know, they see me coming down the hallway and want to ask something, they should be able to. We work just like a family.
I asked the Secretary of Defense if he actually does his own laundry at the Pentagon. “Well, yes,” he said, looking at me as though it would be strange if he did not do his own laundry.
I asked the Secretary why he carries his own bags everywhere he goes. The question was in reference to this recent story we had published about the Secretary always carrying his own bags, behavior that is not standard for D.C.’s powerful.
“Well, I have two hands, don’t I?” was Mattis’s response, looking down at his open palms.
His aide was pulling him in another direction and I sensed this would be the final question, so I asked if anyone in the Pentagon calls him ‘Mad Dog.” He paused and said:
You know, that is not my real call sign? That was something made up by the press. Some reporter, who needed a quick name for me. My real name is Chaos. “Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution.” That is my real call sign and what my men used to call me. Anyone who has ever worked with me calls me Chaos. That’s the name I prefer.
I stood there, shellshocked from Mattis’s response. The Secretary of Defense leaned in toward me and said, “Call me Chaos,” winked, and walked away.
I hope my experience can serve as a public service announcement for you and your family: If you ever have the good fortune of meeting the man in charge of the most powerful military in human history, call him “Chaos.”