John J. McGinn, a retired Army colonel who served two tours of duty in Vietnam during the war in Southeast Asia, died June 21 at his home in Washington. He was 81.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his son John G. McGinn said.

Col. McGinn served 28 years in the Army, mostly as an infantry officer, retiring in 1984 as garrison commander at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In 1965, he received the Silver Star while serving as an adviser to a unit in Vietnam.

In an assault on the Viet Cong, according to the citation for the award, then-Capt. McGinn “was the first one to break into the outside perimeter of the Viet Cong’s main position, and in so doing encouraged the friendly forces to rout the communists.”

From 1988 to 1993, he was a civilian assistant deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army. Other jobs included working in the office of Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.) and, in 1995 and 1996, the office of Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), specializing in defense matters and veterans affairs.

John Joseph McGinn was born in New Orleans. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1956. In 1979, he received a master’s degree in public administration from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He also graduated from the Army War College.

Besides the Silver Star, his military decorations included the Legion of Merit and two awards of the Bronze Star Medal.

He was a Eucharistic minister at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington.

His first marriage, to Ingrid M. Henriksson, ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 29 years, Elizabeth A. Dunbar of Washington; two sons from his first marriage, John G. McGinn of Manassas and Michael J. McGinn of Fairfax City; two stepchildren, Katherine P. Dunbar of Washington and MacDonald Dunbar of Portland, Ore.; a sister; and eight grandchildren.

— Bart Barnes