Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley's wife saved man's life at Arlington Cemetery Veterans Day event

Hollyanne Milley performed CPR on a man before a Veterans Day ceremony.

November 13, 2020, 6:46 PM

On Veterans Day, Hollyanne Milley, the wife of America's top general and a cardiac nurse, saved a man's life by performing CPR on him moments before President Donald Trump's arrival for the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife were lined up on the steps of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater awaiting the president's arrival when a man collapsed at the top of the steps.

"I heard a little commotion behind me," said Hollyanne Milley. "I turned around and I saw that a gentleman had collapsed, and then saw that he was unconscious on the ground."

"I immediately ran to see if I could help," she said.

The man, a veteran attending the event, lay unconscious surrounded by a few people who had seen him collapse.

Luckily for the veteran, Milley has worked as a nurse for 33 years, and as a cardiac nurse for the past 15 years.

After directing someone to call 911 to get an atrial defibrillator, she began performing CPR on the man when he stopped breathing and she could not feel a pulse.

PHOTO: Hollyane Milley is pictured in an undated photo released by the U.S. Army.
Hollyane Milley is pictured in an undated photo released by the U.S. Army.
Monica King/U.S. Army

"I did two cycles of CPR -- just chest compressions -- so I did not give mouth-to-mouth," said Milley. "Everyone had their masks on except the gentleman."

"Then, 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."

Minutes later, the man was responding to her questions about any potential allergies and his medical history. An emergency services team from Joint Base Myers Henderson Hall soon arrived with a gurney to take the man to a nearby hospital.

Soon afterward, the president and first lady Melania Trump arrived at the plaza at the Tomb of the Unknowns to carry out the annual wreath laying ceremony.

NBC News was first to report Hollyanne Milley's role in performing CPR on the unconscious veteran.

Milley noted that saving his life was a team effort, as she was joined by the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman and a doctor from the Department of Veterans Affairs

"There were a lot of helpers, everyone pitched in, from offering encouragement to ensuring the gentleman was safe," said Milley.

PHOTO: Hollyane Milley, the wife of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley, visits Walter Reed hospital.
Hollyane Milley, the wife of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley, visits Walter Reed hospital to deliver cookies to nurses and clinicians there to say "thank you," and to get an update on care provided to wounded warriors and support to their caregivers during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
MC2 Kurtis A. Hatcher

Hollyanne Milley hopes that the episode will encourage people to learn CPR because "bystander intervention can save lives."

Later, the grateful veteran told Milley that "because a bystander knew CPR, that's why I'll be able to continue honoring our veterans for many years to come."

As Gen. Milley has risen through the ranks to become the nation's top military officer, his wife has maintained her license as the family has moved constantly. She transferred her nurse's license to nine different states and has worked in 14 different nursing jobs during her career.

"It took a significant amount of time, effort and money -- especially before the internet -- to transfer my licenses," she said. "When Mark was given options for orders, I would start applying for licensure in each potential state to make sure I'd be able to work as soon as possible once we moved."

"While it certainly took a lot of grit and tenacity to maintain my career, these broad experiences have actually made me a better nurse," said Milley.

"This is America," said Gen. Milley in describing his wife's actions on Veterans Day. "This is people helping people without question or hesitation."

"Hollyanne's actions were representative of the hero medical professionals who are always there when we need them," he said. "She represents the strength and service of our military families."

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