Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is known for being a military powerhouse. However, his life could have turned out incredibly differently. Mattis almost gave up his military career to marry a woman, Alice Clark, because she struggled with the idea of spending months apart when he would be sent overseas. But a phone call from his commanding officer changed everything.
Mattis and Clark were set to be married in Hawaii in 1981, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
At the time, Mattis was a Marine captain who was rising to the top. He was 30 years old and, in his biography, described Clark as an “attractive, unattached” woman.
Clark was 36 and going by her maiden name, Alice Gillis. She later married her husband, Sefton Clark, and took his last name.
The romance between Mattis and Clark grew because she shared “his reverential worldview” and had “a deep appreciation for the Marine Corps.”
However, Clark gave him an ultimatum – choose her or the Marine Corps. She was concerned about the “frequent moves to different parts of the world,” the long stretches of being apart, and the “constant threat” that he could be killed while serving.
At that point, Mattis prepared to leave the military to dedicate himself to the only woman who genuinely won his heart.
However, Clark called off the nuptials after receiving a call from Mattis’s commanding officer.
“Three days before the wedding his commanding officer called me and said he is resigning because of you,” said Clark. “I called off the wedding.”
She feared she was a “burden to him and his career.” During the interview, she added, “Being a military wife would have been okay, the trouble was his deployments, him being gone for months at a time.”
Even though guests had already begun to arrive for the ceremony and the caterers were preparing for the event, she decided to not go forward with the wedding.
Now, Clark believes that Mattis is better off than he would have been had they gotten married. After the decision to call off the wedding, Mattis continued his military career, rising up through the ranks and helping to lead US operations in Iraq in 2003.
He was ultimately selected by President Donald Trump to fill the role of Secretary of Defense.
“If he had married me he wouldn’t be the Secretary of Defense,” said Clark in an interview.