FORT BENNING, Ga., (June 15, 2016) -- Retired Maj. Gen. Bernard "Burn" Loeffke, West Point class of '57, spoke June 8 to Maneuver captains currently in the Maneuver Captain's Career Course at Fort Benning about the importance of open and benevolent communication with nations to ensure a safer and more cooperative world.
As Loeffke stated, "when people stop talking, people start dying," and it is paramount that the junior officers of today grow up in the military and make the effort to speak to even those who are considered the enemy.
Loeffke has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, an Master of Arts in Russian Language and Soviet Area Studies, and a Ph.D. in International Relations. He taught Russian at the United States Military Academy and U.S. Foreign Policy at Georgetown University. In 1992, he retired from the Army and started his medical career and in 1997, finished his studies as a physician's assistant. He now participates in medical missions in war-torn and impoverished areas such as Bosnia, Haiti, Kenya, Iraq, Niger, Darfur and the Amazon jungles.
Loeffke has commanded Special Forces, an Infantry battalion, was a paratroop advisor to Vietnamese units, was the Army Attaché in Moscow, a staff officer in the White House and was the director of the Commission on White House Fellows. He culminated his military career as the commanding general of U.S. Army South.
While serving as a junior officer in Vietnam, Loeffke said he was forever changed by the combat death of one of his Soldiers, Sgt. Larry Morford. Morford opposed the war, but explained to the young Loeffke that even during a time of the draft, when his unit was predominantly draftees, he chose to volunteer to be a Soldier because "war is a beastly job and the least beastly of us should be doing it."
Loeffke said he honors the sergeant's memory to this day for changing his life and dedicated the Friendship Fund at West Point in Morford's honor to inspire cadets to increase their understanding of Russian and Chinese relations. He likened Morford's selfless service to that of Corporal Lei Feng, a Chinese army truck driver who was killed in an accident in 1962. Feng epitomized selfless service and became a national icon in China as the personification of altruism and helped lead the country out of chaos, according to Loeffke.
Loeffke stressed that through his differing experiences and knowledge, he hopes to impart on the young officers the importance of communication to prevent wars and the importance of finding the right medium to relate to whomever the conversation is directed toward.
He stated that differing nations perceive and value things differently, and one common language that everyone speaks is health, and that he has found that working to improve the health of a population builds lasting friendships and allies, not enemies.