Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis thanked sailors last week for "sticking with the Navy" and said their service means they're not some "pussy sitting on the sidelines."

"You'll never regret, but you will have some of the best days of your life and some of the worst days of your life in the U.S. Navy, you know what I mean?" Mattis said during an event with sailors last week, according to a transcript that was posted days later. "That says — that means you're living. That means you're living. That means you're not some pussy sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, ‘Well, I should have done something with my life.'

"Because of what you're doing now, you're not going to be laying on a shrink's couch when you're 45 years old, say ‘What the hell did I do with my life?' Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you."

Mattis spoke with sailors of the USS Kentucky, a ballistic missile submarine, during a visit to Naval Base Kitsap in Bangor, Wash., on Aug. 9.

During his remarks to the sailors, which included a question-and-answer session, Mattis also thanked them for continuing to serve.

"I've come out here, really, to pay my respects to you and to learn what's on your minds. Every one of you, if you qualified for this program, could get out of the Navy today, could make a lot more money, and you don't spend any months at sea, where you don't know what's going on with your wife or your sister's wedding, or something like that," he said.

"So, I've got to come here and just tell you thank you," he said. "Know that I haven't met you personally, but I do know you. I sense I know you, because if you were not willing to sacrifice for the country, if you weren't willing to keep a little spirit of adventure and take that boat out every couple of months, then this country would not exist without your kind of service. It's just that simple in this imperfect world."