The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, stepped down on Friday, delivering a spirited address emphasizing the U.S. military’s commitment to the Constitution rather than any individual, indirectly referencing past comments from former President Trump.
Previously, Trump had leveled accusations of “treason” against Milley, suggesting he had acted improperly in conversations with Chinese officials near the close of his presidency. Trump even implied that the general might face extreme consequences.
During his retirement ceremony in Virginia, Milley articulated, “Our military stands out globally. We don’t pledge our loyalty to a particular nation, community, faith, or monarchy. We don’t vow to support any dictators, prospective or established.” He stressed that the U.S. military’s loyalty is to the Constitution and the ideals that constitute America.
Milley, nominated by Trump in 2018, had several disagreements with him during his tenure. One of the notable incidents involved the St. John’s Church event in Washington, D.C., in the midst of 2020’s protests against racial injustice. Milley’s appearance with Trump during this event led him to later express regret, suggesting it conveyed undue military involvement in domestic politics, a sentiment which did not sit well with Trump.
Around the same period, Milley endorsed renaming military bases that bore the names of Confederate generals, a position contrary to Trump’s. Furthermore, leading up to the 2020 elections, as documented in the book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley sought to affirm international confidence in the U.S. by assuring his Chinese counterpart of continued peace.
Post-election, with concerns about potential disruption in the transition of power, Milley reportedly emphasized following proper channels for any military orders, a narrative also detailed in “Peril.”
Although Trump was not mentioned by name in Friday’s ceremony at Joint Base-Myer Henderson Hall, the focus was on celebrating Milley’s extensive military service spanning over 40 years.
President Biden lauded Milley’s collaboration, highlighting his courage and recalling a brave incident where Milley ensured the safety of wounded troops. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin praised Milley as both “an intellectual and a fighter,” expressing deep respect and admiration for his leadership across the various arms of the military.
The event also featured the swearing-in of the new Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., previously the Air Force’s top official.