August 26, 2016 (ST. PAUL, Minnesota) — Funeral arrangements have been set for Gen. John William Vessey Jr. who passed away August 18, 2016, at the age of 94. Vessey, a Minnesota native, enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard as a private in 1939 and served as the tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from June 18, 1982 to September 30, 1985.
“General John W. Vessey is a national treasure with a military legacy unmatched in the history of the Minnesota National Guard or the U.S. Army. His passing is nationally significant and yet very personal to many in the Minnesota National Guard, including me,” said Maj. Gen. Rick Nash, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General. “General Vessey has been a mentor, and a friend; though missed by many, he will never be forgotten.”
A religious service will take place Wednesday, August 31, at 1:00 p.m. at the Fort Snelling Chapel where he married his wife, Avis, in 1945. This service is open to the public and the media.
Following the religious service at 2:30 p.m., a “Celebration of Life and Service” will take place at the Boy Scout Base Camp near the Fort Snelling Chapel. This event is also open to the public and the media.
On Thursday, September 1 at noon, a religious service will take place at the Camp Ripley Chapel which will include a horse-drawn caisson procession and a Blackhawk flyover. This service is open to the public and the media.
Following the service at the Camp Ripley Chapel, the interment will take place at the Camp Ripley State Veterans Cemetery. The interment will be closed to the media and the general public.
Vessey was born June 29, 1922 and began his 46-year military career in the Minnesota National Guard in 1939 when he was still 16. He received a battlefield commission during the Battle of Anzio while serving in the 34th Infantry Division in World War II. General Vessey also served during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. As a Lieutenant Colonel, he graduated from college in 1963 at the age of 41. As a Colonel, he graduated from the Army Helicopter School at Fort Rucker Ala. at the age of 48.
In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a position he would hold for over three years, a comparatively short term. He was the last four star General who was also a combat veteran of World War II on active service. When he retired in 1985 at the age of 63, Gen. Vessey was the longest-serving active duty member in the United States Army.
After retiring from the Army, Vessey became involved in efforts to account for military personnel listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War. He made several trips to Vietnam to search for remains as part of resolving the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. Vessey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.
Governor Mark Dayton has ordered all United States flags and Minnesota flags to be flown at half-staff at all state and federal buildings in the State of Minnesota, from sunrise until sunset on Thursday, September 1, 2016, the day of his interment, in honor and remembrance of General Vessey, Jr.
For more information on Gen. Vessey’s life and military career, visit www.MinnesotaNationalGuard.org/vessey.