WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said his predecessor — Chuck Hagel — always put service to others above self, as the two men unveiled Hagel’s official portrait during a ceremony in the Pentagon courtyard today.
Hagel served as the 24th defense secretary from 2013 to 2015.
Hagel’s story began in Nebraska where he and his four brothers lived in a series of towns. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in April 1967 — followed soon after by his brother Tom — and the two served in the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong River area of Vietnam during some of some of the toughest times in that war.
He returned to the United States, received a college degree and continued his service to America serving as a U.S. representative, a U.S. Senator and as Defense Secretary. “Our former secretary served as an Army sergeant wounded in action and rose to the very top of our department,” Mattis said during his remarks.
“He represents what is great about America: One who has put service to others before self, and from the firefights of Vietnam, then to the halls of Congress, then to the Pentagon and to our field and fleet units, he has stood strong all those years,” Mattis said of Hagel.
Hagel’s other brother, Mike, who’s a well-known artist, painted the official portrait. It is a rendering of his brother, but surmounting it he painted the Combat Infantry Badge.
“You will see in the portrait there is only one object in the painting aside from its mediocre subject, and that is the Combat Infantry Badge — the CIB,” Hagel said. “As you all know, it is a U.S. Army decoration awarded to those who served in combat. It’s a symbol that conveys that part of my service to the country of which I am most proud of.
“What I am most proud of is serving our country alongside the quiet heroes that every generation of Americans produces,” Hagel continued.
“Heroes that neither receive nor seek glory or recognition. This uncommon courage and humility is the common denominator of the American people. It is a strong thread that is woven into the fabric of our society. In a volatile and uncertain time in our country and the world, it is this steady, confident and humble strength of character that will guide us through this current uncertainty.”
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