If there is one military officer the average American can name, it is Gen. Mark Milley, the Boston-born chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who is retiring at the end of this week after four tumultuous years as the nation’s top soldier.
Milley will be remembered as one of the most consequential and controversial chairs in modern history, whose tenure spanned both the Trump and Biden administrations. His proponents commend the outspoken Army general for navigating Trump’s attempts to undermine democracy and his role in supporting Ukraine. Critics say he too often stepped outside his advisory role and dragged the military into the political fray.
But both sides agree he is nothing if not quotable. A history buff known for lengthy soliloquies, he had a tendency to turn 30-minute scheduled meetings with reporters into hours-long interviews, and congressional hearings into viral moments. Here are some of his best quotes:
Milley on whether Marines should continue getting haircuts during the Covid-19 pandemic, at an April 14, 2020, press briefing.
Milley’s draft resignation letter to then-President Donald Trump, dated June 8, 2020, and quoted in the New Yorker on Aug. 8, 2022.
Milley on the Lafayette Square photo-op, in a National Defense University Commencement speech on June 11, 2020.
Milley on George Floyd’s death, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on July 9, 2020.
Milley told the Jan. 6 committee that he was instructed to make it look as though former President Donald Trump — not Vice President Mike Pence — was in charge. Jan. 6, 2021.
Milley apologizes to Rep. Adam Schiff for a joke he made at a change of command ceremony on Oct. 1. Milley said when he saw Schiff was on the guest list:
Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin describe the fate of Ayman al-Zawahiri on May 6, 2021.
Milley responding to questions on critical race theory before the House Armed Services Committee on June 23, 2021.
Milley on talking to the media, speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28, 2021.
Milley on Afghanistan, before the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 29, 2021.
Milley at a change of command ceremony for U.S. Special Operations Command on Aug. 30. 2022
Milley on potential for peace negotiations in the Ukraine war, at the Economic Club of New York on Nov. 9, 2022.
Milley on warning other senior U.S. leaders that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine in the leadup to the war, in an interview with POLITICO on Feb. 16, 2023:
Milley answering a press question about Trump’s reported discussions of classified military plans on June 15, 2023.
Milley at a retirement ceremony for former Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville on Aug. 2, 2023.
Milley in an interview with members of the Jan. 6 committee on Nov. 17. 2021.