Marsh Remembered at New Market
LEXINGTON, Va., Feb. 21, 2019—VMI cadets performed the ceremonial duties as former Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh Jr. was laid to rest Friday in a ceremony at New Market Battlefield and State Historical Park.
Though not a graduate of the Institute, Marsh’s ties to VMI were deep. He served on the VMI Board of Visitors from 1976 to 1980 and was frequently involved in Institute events, including delivering the Oath Day speech at New Market for over 20 years.
Members of the Corps of Cadets participated throughout the service, ushering guests, firing a 21-gun salute, and serving as pall bearers. Cadet musicians performed during the service with the Glee Club singing Marsh’s favorite song, Shenandoah, and cadet buglers playing Echo Taps at the graveside.
“Secretary Marsh’s contributions to the nation have been remarkable,” said General J.H. Binford Peay III '62, VMI’s Superintendent. “His many accomplishments demonstrate those traits we work to inculcate in our cadets: leadership, duty, honor, and devotion. He has been both an inspiration to, and a friend of, VMI. It is appropriate that cadets rendered final honors in the name of the nation, and I am proud of the professionalism they displayed as they performed this solemn duty.”
A dedicated public servant, Marsh was also remembered as a dedicated father and grandfather. His grandson, Capt. Adam Marsh ’15 spoke during the ceremony.
“He instilled in us a respect for the value and history of our family as well as an appreciation for the importance of the impact we would individually leave on this world,” he said. “To our family his greatest accomplishment is that of a grandfather.”
The battlefield had special significance for Marsh, who had deep ties to the place and was instrumental to its preservation.
“It is difficult to imagine anyone will ever replicate the relationship that this valley and this specific place meant to Jack Marsh,” said Col. Keith Gibson ’77, executive director of the VMI Museum System.
Gibson told of how Marsh visited the family farm that was the site of the battle when he was a child. There Marsh learned the story of the battle of New Market and the VMI cadets’ charge across the field.
“For Jack Marsh, the battle was a demonstration of the most vital elements of character and human conduct—public service, duty, integrity, selflessness. He never forgot those lessons,” said Gibson. “The nine-year-old boy found something here. He found something on this ground in 1935 that resonated through his entire life.”
A native of Winchester who served a decade as the region’s congressman, Marsh always called the Shenandoah Valley home.
“He was called to live on the mountaintop many times in his career, but he always returned to the valley... Like Cincinnatus and Washington before him, he returned to a place where he shared so much of his love and generosity,” said Dr. Gregory Saathoff, who delivered the eulogy.
Marsh worked closely with three presidents, holding cabinet rank as counselor to the president under Gerald Ford and becoming the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of the Army in history under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
The impact of his public service was reflected by the guests in attendance, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Virginia Governor and U.S. Senator Chuck Robb.
Marsh’s burial on the grounds of the battlefield was a singular honor, unlikely to be repeated. Glenn Ann Patterson Marsh, will be reinterred alongside her husband, and a memorial will be placed over their graves.
-Maj. John Robertson IV