Gen. John “Jack” Vessey, a Minnesota native who rose to the highest ranks of the military to become President Ronald Reagan’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left explicit orders about his memorial service: that there be no eulogy and the officiant talk about the power of Jesus Christ.
Retired Navy chaplain Rear Admiral Donald Muchow did just that at the Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel on Wednesday. During a 46-year military career, Vessey, who enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard at 17, was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 1982 to 1985. He died Aug. 18 at 94.
Several hundred people crowded into the chapel and then, following a 21-shot volley from a military honor guard, attended a celebration of his life at a nearby Boy Scouts of America camp.
“Many of you here hold positions of great power,” Muchow told the audience, which included U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Mark Dayton and former Reagan U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese. “Some even have the power of life and death. So did Jack. But he was always ready to say that the Lord had total power and authority over everybody and everything.”
Muchow quoted from a speech Vessey made in Birmingham, Ala., in 1984 during a Veterans Day celebration: “There are not any cheap, easy gimmicks as we seek world peace and national security. Strength, steadiness, willing allies and the willingness to serve all are great contributors. Above all we need moral and spiritual health in order to sustain our freedoms.”
Vessey will be buried on Thursday at the Minnesota Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls.