FORT SNELLING - Minnesota said goodbye to one of its most distinguished military leaders on Wednesday.
General John Vessey was, at one time, the nation's longest-serving active duty service member, and he continued to serve his country and Minnesota soldiers until he died last week at 94 years old.
Friends and family of General Vessey gathered alongside military and political leaders at Fort Snelling Chapel on Wednesday.
"It's appropriate that we're in this chapel because 69 years ago, General Vessey and his wife were married right here,” said Chaplain Donald Muchow.
It's only fitting that the place where his mission of love began, also inspired the general’s final orders.
“(General Vessey) said, ‘You be sure to tell everybody about Jesus,’” Muchow said. “And that's a Jack Vessey way of doing business in life."
Retired Sergeant Major Ludwell Brown says that faith was evident to everyone, even in battle.
“He's a man who was the epitome of the word love,” Ludwell said. "We have to go off to war, and here's a four star general sitting in there reading the bible."
That's not to say the general never told a lie.
"In fact he lied about his age in order to serve as a motorcycle rider,” said Colonel Kevin Olson, spokesperson for the Minnesota National Guard.
After riding into World War II as a 17 year old private for the Minnesota Nationla Guard, General Vessey rode out as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President Reagan. His 46 year military career included service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and many medals. Through it all, he never forgot where he came from.
"He was proud to be a Minnesotan,” said Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. “When Ronald Reagan talked about him, he said the one thing that General Vessey would always talk about was that he was a soldier from Minnesota.”
But in life and death, that soldier from Minnesota also made a worldwide impact.
"Very good man,” said Binh Cao, a former officer for South Vietnam who credits General Vessey for helping free him and others from North Vietnamese prisons. “A very good man. A hero."
A hero who carried out a mission of love.