Since the military kicked off its global campaigns in 2001, war has turned ordinary officers into heroes. Well, some of them anyway. The same can be said of the wars of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Over the course of seven seasons, we’ve seen war tear apart Westeros, making boys into men, enemies of brothers, and traitors of honorable soldiers. And winter is only just arriving. For the hundreds of thousands who have served in the Global War on Terror, much the same has happened, making the careers of some like James Mattis, and breaking the careers of others like Mike Flynn.
But what if the U.S. military generals were warriors on Game of Thrones? Here’s our take on seven post-9/11 generals as characters on the show.
Alliser Thorne, Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn
Ser Alliser Thorne was once a great warrior, defending Castle Black as master-at-arms of the Night’s Watch. But after Jon Snow welcomed the free folk beyond the wall, Thorne turned on him and stabbed him in the heart. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn had a similar experience. Valued for his military prowess, he was given multiple leadership roles by both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. But a dalliance with Russia before Trump’s inauguration left him out in the cold. At least for Flynn, betrayal didn’t end the way it did for Thorne.
Ned Stark, Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly
When duty calls, Ned Stark answers, no matter what. Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly is cut from the same cloth. Despite losing his son and fellow Marine to a landmine in Sangin, Afghanistan, in 2010, Kelly continued to serve in the military for six more years before becoming a Trump cabinet member. Now he serves as Trump’s White House chief of staff after a short stint overseeing the Department of Homeland Security. Ned Stark, we imagine, would do the same. He followed his king, Robert Baratheon, all the way to his grave.
Tormund Giantsbane, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal
Tormund, Jon Snow’s left-hand man, lacks a filter. But we’re okay with it because he says what needs to be said. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal does the same. It got him into hot water when he divulged too much information about troop numbers in Afghanistan during a Rolling Stone interview in 2009, which forced his resignation shortly thereafter. But he was allowed to retain four stars when he retired despite not meeting the requisite three years served to hold that rank.
Grey Worm, Navy Adm. John Richardson
Like Grey Worm, Adm. John Richardson is even-tempered but efficient. Grey Worm is soft-spoken but incredibly deliberate in his actions. One of the few post-9/11 admirals still on active duty, Richardson uses this demeanor to helm the Navy as chief of naval operations. In dealing with crises, Richardson greets them with poise, whether it’s in dealing with health issues among Navy pilots or offering transparency with mishaps like the USS Fitzgerald crash. As evidenced in his addresses to sailors, he speaks quietly but powerfully — much like Grey Worm when offering war counsel to Daenerys.
Jorah Mormont, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster
Ever-torn between serving his country and serving his queen, Jorah Mormont struggles to find the balance between doing what he is told and what is right. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster whose illustrious career from the Gulf War through GWOT precedes him — with fellow Gen. Martin Dempsey calling him “our best Brigadier General” in 2011 — faces an uphill battle between protecting the country and appeasing Trump while serving as his national security advisor. Like we do with Mormont, we hope the best is yet to come for McMaster, who is still on active duty despite serving the president.
Stannis Baratheon, Army Gen. David Petraeus
A battle-tested warrior with strategic intelligence to boot, Stannis Baratheon was undone by the Red Woman, Melisandre. Though he held Storm’s End during his brother Robert’s rebellion, he lost the war of Five Kings, and his life. Army Gen. Petraeus too fell from grace after having an affair with his biographer with whom he also shared classified information. Petraeus was so focused on counterinsurgency in Afghanistan that he didn’t realize it could fail, much like Stannis’ blinded by the prophecies from the Lord of Light.
Luckily for Petraeus, there was no Brienne of Tarth to seek retribution, though we imagine his wife wasn’t nearly as supportive of his affair as Stannis’ was.
Jon Snow, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis
Ever-the-favorite Jon Snow was a warrior turned politician-King in the north. Legendary Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, we think, is similar. Though he never intended to get involved in politics, Mattis accepted the position of Secretary of Defense, but he doesn’t play the game. Instead, he continues to speak truth to power, much like Jon Snow to Daenerys and everyone else who just can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that winter is coming. Mattis continues to be an integral part of Trump’s cabinet, by being frank about the U.S. military’s position on things like North Korea and Russia.