On Tuesday night, the Marine Corps announced via twitter General James N. Mattis' plans for retirement this spring after four decades of service.

Mattis, currently CENTCOM commanding general, is an icon of sorts in the Marine Corps, and arguably the most famous living Marine.

Skip to the quotes >

Mattis himself dismissed rumors that he would be nominated to a post overseeing NATO if General John Allen wasn't cleared of the Jill Kelley scandal. Yet the announcement of his retirement followed promptly after the exoneration of Allen.

There are various ideas floating around concerning his possible exodus from active duty — Tom Ricks seems to think Mattis is being forced out for asking tough questions about Iran, or for advocating a smaller global footprint for the U.S. military.

Regardless, the loss of Mattis would be a blow to the morale of the Corps. One Marine officer we spoke with agrees, saying "skilled company grade [officers] and NCOs with multiple deployments ... said they would have decided to stay in based solely on the news of Gen Mattis' appointment [as Commandant]. Love him or hate him, but that's not nothing."

It's been a long road for Mattis, one in which the media often paints him as a cold-anesthetized killer. The reality is that he's also a beloved leader, a thoughtful, sober strategist, and a caring father figure to every young service member he encounters.

An account by John R. Guardiano, a former Marine who not only met but conversed in depth with Mattis, sums up the general's character best.

As published in The American Spectator:

Both the left and the right are wrong about Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis. He is neither the Jack Nicholson caricature of a Marine depicted in the 1992 movie A Few Good Men nor the callous and mad eccentric depicted by George C. Scott in the 1970 movie Patton.

And Gen. Mattis didn’t just talk the talk; he walked the walk. He led from the front. Indeed, on at least one occasion that I know of, the General was bloodied from a firefight or improvised explosive device while out on patrol with junior, enlisted Marines one-third his age. That’s what makes Gen. Mattis such a great warrior: He truly respects and cares for his Marines.

“Guardiano,” he told me, “I don’t give a damn about the officers. If they don’t like what they’re doing, they can get on a plane and leave the Corps — go back where they came from. But I do care deeply about those 18- and 19-year-old Lance Corporals out on the frontlines.”

We've gathered some of his best quotes, taken from this San Diego Union-Tribune profile, unless otherwise specified.