Funeral services for a Minnesota priest who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq five years ago and died this weekend have been set for 10 a.m. Friday at the Cathedral of St. Paul, the Minnesota National Guard said.
The Rev. Tim Vakoc died at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale about 8 p.m. Saturday. He was 49.
Vakoc was an Army chaplain on May 29, 2004, when a blast cost him an eye and severely damaged his brain as he was returning from celebrating Mass with troops near Mosul.
"A man of peace, he chose to endure the horror of war in order to bring the peace of Christ to America's fighting men and women," Archbishop John Nienstedt said in a statement. "He has been an inspiration to us all and we will miss him. We ask everyone to remember him in prayer."
Vakoc was believed to be the first military chaplain wounded in Iraq, officials at the U.S. Central Command said soon after he was injured.
The major was hospitalized for four months at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, and was transferred in a near coma to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Minneapolis in October 2004.
After many surgeries and infections, he slowly started to recognize friends and family, and began to communicate with squeezes of the hand or slight smiles. In the fall of 2006, he spoke for the first time in 2½ years.
Vakoc, a Robbinsdale native, served as a parish priest in St. Anthony and Eagan before becoming an Army chaplain in 1996, and serving in Germany and Bosnia. He shipped out to Iraq shortly before his 44th birthday.
Nienstedt said the archdiocese is grieving with Vakoc's family.
"We are joined in that grieving, to be sure, by the men and woman whom he served as chaplain in Iraq and those of who witnessed his extraordinary courage and faith at Walter Reed Hospital and here at our Veteran's Hospital," Nienstedt said.
Vakoc's visitation will be Thursday evening at the Gearty-Delmore Funeral Chapel, 15800 37th Avenue N., in Plymouth. He will be buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Friday, following the service at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made in the name of Fr. Henry Timothy Vakoc to the following organizations: the Franciscan Brothers of Peace; the Fisher House construction project on the grounds of the Minneapolis Veterans' Administration Hospital; The TKE Fraternity St. Cloud University Scholarship Fund; St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, MN.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)