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‘We will pay the butcher’s bill in blood’: General issues stern warning as he becomes Army chief

As Gen. Mark A. Milley was sworn in as the Army’s 39th chief of staff on Friday, he offered a stern warning that the United States must remain prepared to handle multiple enemies at a time or face the consequences.

“As America, we have no luxury of a single opponent,” Milley said. “We have to be able to fight guerrillas and terrorists all the way up through nation-state militaries. If we do not maintain our commitment to remain strong in the air, on the sea and yes, on the ground, then we will pay the butcher’s bill in blood, and we will forever lose the precious gift of our freedom.”

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Milley replaced Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who will retire after 39 years of service. Milley last served as the four-star commander of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., and previously led tens of thousands of soldiers with III Corps at Fort Hood, Tex., and commanded troops in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014.

The ceremony was held at Fort Myer, the small post against the edge of Arlington National Cemetery where several senior officers live. Full video of it can be seen here. Those attending included Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Odierno thanked his family, noting that both his father and father-in-law served in the military. He praised his three children for moving repeatedly during high school and handling it with grace, and his wife, Linda, for being a rock in his life since he was a student at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

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“When I graduated West Point, I told her ‘We’re going to stay in five years and get out.’ Linda, our five years are up,” Odierno said.

Milley thanked Odierno and his wife for their service, calling Odierno a moral giant. He also thanked his own family, noting that his wife, Hollyanne, has just completed her 30th move during his 35 years of service.

“Our children are the real reason that we in uniform all serve,” Milley said. “Some say it’s education. Some say it’s money, or for a variety of other reasons. No. It’s for others. We serve for others, and most importantly, we serve for our children.”

Milley said freedom is a very expensive gift paid for with the blood of those from earlier generations. A short distance away at Arlington cemetery, he said, are so many “soldiers of freedom” who sacrificed their lives.

“There is no cheap way to change, and more importantly, there is no cheap way to buy freedom,” Milley said. “The only thing more expensive than fighting and winning a war is fighting and losing a war — and fighting and winning a war is what the United States Army is all about.”