The wife of the nation’s highest-ranking military officer saved the life of man during a Veterans Day event at the Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday.
Hollyanne Milley — a practicing nurse married to Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — was attending the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier when she heard groaning behind her. It was just after the ceremonial wreath had been placed and before President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie appeared.
Milley can be seen on video closing her umbrella and walking toward the sound about a minute and a half after a man in a dark suit is seen uneasily walking up the stairs, bracing himself on the marble as he went. Once at the top of the stairs, he kneeled behind a column at the eastern entrance of the Memorial Amphitheater, near where the ceremony was taking place.
In a statement emailed to Military Times on Saturday, Milley said she heard “a little commotion” behind her and she went to see if she could help.
“When I first got there, he was breathing in a very erratic way that he wasn’t really taking air into his lungs as he should have been,” Milley said. “And then he stopped breathing.”
Milley checked his pulse and it was flat, so she told an onlooker to call 911 before beginning CPR. Milley didn’t give mouth-to-mouth, she said.
After about two cycles of chest compression, “he took a big spontaneous breath and a big groan on his own, and he started moving air,” she said. “After a few breaths, he started coming around.”
At that point, Milley stopped resuscitating the man and moved him into the rescue position on his side.
“It took about a minute or two for him to begin responding to my questions, asking about allergies and medical history and that kind of thing," Milley said. "I was just reorienting him to where he was, things that a medical person would ask when assessing a patient.”
Several minutes later, a gurney can be seen wheeled in by Fort Meyer Emergency Medical Services, who then transported him to a local hospital.
“Whenever there is a rescue like this in a group, there are a lot of people who pitch in,” Milley said. “The (senior enlisted advisor to the chairman) came to help, and there was a physician who worked with the VA who was there as well, so it was a team effort by everybody.”
Milley said if any key message should be conveyed, it’s that people should learn CPR.
“Bystander intervention can save lives, and it did (Wednesday),” Milley said. “It absolutely did.”
Milley checked on the man Thursday, when she discovered he was a veteran, there at the cemetery to honor those who served. The man, who wished to remain anonymous, told Milley he was grateful he’d be alive for the next Veterans Day memorial, she recounted.
Milley has been a nurse for 33 years, 18 of which were spent in critical care. She’s worked as a cardiac nurse for the past 15 years and is currently practicing in northern Virginia. She said she’s worked hard to continue her career by transferring her nursing license multiple times while moving from state to state as a military spouse.
“While it certainly took a lot of grit and tenacity to maintain my career, these broad experiences have actually made me a better nurse,” Milley said.
Gen. Milley, in a statement emailed to Military Times, said this is what America is about.
“This is people helping people without question or hesitation,” Gen. Milley said. “Hollyanne’s actions were representative of the hero medical professionals who are always there when we need them.”
Jared is a freelance journalist, a former Marine and a veterans advocate living in Los Angeles.