UPDATED 7:17 AM PT — Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018
Outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis sent what is likely his final message to the troops stationed around the world. In a statement released by the Department of Defense Tuesday, Mattis thanked service members who ensure fellow Americans can celebrate this season of hope in peace and safety.
Mattis was working out of the Pentagon on Christmas Day, and will leave the administration earlier than expected on January 1, 2018.
The outgoing defense secretary said it was a privilege to have served alongside men and women in the armed forces.
“Since Washington crossed the Delaware at Christmas in 1776, American troops have missed holidays at home to defend our experiment in Democracy. To all you lads and lasses holding the line in 2018 on land, at sea, or in the air, thanks for keeping the faith. Merry Christmas and may God hold you safe.”
— James Mattis, Secretary of Defense
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over on an interim basis until President Trump names a new nominee for the post.