Major General (ret) Bernard (Burn) Loeffke
As a warrior, Major General Bernard ‘Burn’ Loeffke’s credentials are impeccable. The holder of four Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars for Valor as well as a Purple Heart, General Loeffke, whom his friends call Burn, served three and a half tours in Vietnam. An enlisted man’s officer, Burn led from the front, engaging constantly with his men and doing his best to get the most out of his soldiers, while reducing their risk as much as combat would allow.
The first US Army general sent to China as Chief of Military Mission after the opening of military relations in the 80s, Burn stressed eye to eye relations with his military counterparts and learned Mandarin. He is the only American officer to have ever jumped with Chinese paratroopers while on active duty. That he remains closely engaged with the current Chinese military establishment after 35 years confirms that his approach to effective relations has great worth. Burn did the same in Russia during the Cold War and in the SALT talks in Geneva. His later reactivation to active duty to scour the gulags of the former Soviet Union in search of POWs again confirmed that his style of engagement brings results.
In retirement, Burn went back to school to become a physician associate and then served as a medical volunteer in third world countries. Burn has served in the combat zones of Africa and the jungles of Latin America, armed with bandages and whatever medical gear was available, and has risked his life and health with no interest in recognition.
The Friendship Fund
In 1995, Burn started the Friendship Fund at his alma mater, West Point, and dedicated it in honor of Larry Morford (see story below), an outstanding warrior who helped save Burn’s life in combat. The Fund seeks to expose cadets to a potentially threatening world outside their walls and to encourage them to learn other languages, to appreciate other viewpoints and understand the complexity of the problems being confronted by an ever changing world.
Since its inception, dozens of cadets have benefited from this program.
Larry Morford- The epitome of a dedicated warrior
Burn’s life was changed in Vietnam by an enlisted man, Sgt. Larry Morford. Burn describes him as the greatest influence in his life. Morford, a Mormon, was against violence but, despite this, volunteered to go to battle to represent the “least beastly of us” in combat. Morford was just a high school grad with no prior military training. Burn, the epitome of a warrior came to respect this thoughtful young American. Sgt. Morford consistently volunteered for the most difficult and hazardous of duty and was shot only weeks before his tour was over. Morford had refused to go to the rear, as was his right as a short timer. He was killed while volunteering as point in combat. Nothing could have more clearly demonstrated Morford’s integrity and values.
This young man’s tragic death left Burn with a commitment to dedicate his own life upon retirement to the profession that Morford had hoped to pursue after Vietnam: that of being a medical missionary.
“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.