General Mark Milley, the soon-to-retire chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has made a claim exposing Donald Trump for making “disturbing” comments about a wounded US Army veteran as well as other eye-popping statements.
Mr Milley is the 20th chairman, a role which he started when Mr Trump gave it to him in 2019. Before this, he was the 39th chief of staff of the Army and served in multiple commands throughout his career
In a tell-all interview with The Atlantic to commemorate the end of his 43-year career in the armed services, he recounted the times the former president made astonishing comments about former Army Captain Luis Avila, who was seriously wounded after five combat tours and appeared in a ceremony with Trump and Milley.
"Why do you bring people like that here? No one wants to see that, the wounded." Mr Trump allegedly told Mr Milley, asking him to never let the soldier make a public appearance again.
Mr Avila, who had “lost his leg in an IED attack in Afghanistan and had suffered two heart attacks, two strokes, and brain damage as a result of his injuries,” was invited by Mr Milley to sing at an Armed Forces Welcome Ceremony in September 2019.
For Mr Milley, Mr Avila symbolised the heroism and courageousness of those who serve in active duty, so much so that they would sacrifice their lives for the country. Mr Milley himself had to bury 242 soldiers who’d served under his command in tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, The Atlantic wrote.
A very different take was displayed by Mr Trump, according to Mr Milley. “Trump’s attitude toward the uniformed services seemed superficial, callous, and, at the deepest human level, repugnant,” The Atlantic concluded.
In video of the performance, it can be seen that Mr Trump makes his way to embrace and congratulate Mr Avila, but moments after he was reported to have made the callous remark to Mr Milley, within earshot of other witnesses.
The article also states that Mr Milley tried to educate the then-president on the “concepts of honor, sacrifice and duty.”
According to The Atlantic, Mr Trump had a “sour view” of the armed forces, which made Mr Milley’s job far more challenging than he thought it would be.
Mr Milley also recounts another of Mr Trump’s distorted views of the armed forces.
“Milley found himself in a disconcerting situation: trying, and failing, to teach President Trump the difference between appropriate battlefield aggressiveness on the one hand, and war crimes on the other,” The Atlantic wrote.
In one incident, he says that Mr Trump called the Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher a “hero,” saying“ you guys” — meaning combat soldiers — “are all just killers. What’s the difference?”
Mr Gallagher had been previously found guilty of posing with the dead body of an Islamic State prisoner, who he also stabbed in the neck with a knife.
In 2020, reports show that Mr Trump was accused of calling dead American soldiers “losers” and “suckers” after cancelling his trip to the Aisne-Marne American cemetery in France, where 1,800 US Marines who lost their lives in a World War I battle are buried.
Mr Milley also notes other times he has had contempt for Mr Trump’s actions.
In the infamous photo-op scandal in Lafayette Square — after George Floyd protesters were cleared outside of the White House by force — Mr Milley said he felt duped by being asked to be there in his uniform, as he felt it was too much of a crossover between the military and politics.
His relationship with Mr Trump dwindled after Mr Milley made a public apology on the matter, with the then-president allegedly telling him that apologies are a sign of weakness.
He also mentions that when being interviewed for the chairman job, Mr Trump asked him if he was “soft on transgenders,” the article notes.
“I’m not soft on transgender or hard on transgender. I’m about standards in the U.S. military, about who is qualified to serve in the U.S. military. I don’t care who you sleep with or what you are,” Mr Milley responded, according to the article.