What “The Greatest Generation” had that we don’t

Most of the men who waded onto the beaches at Normandy during World War II were in their early 20s, and the fortunate who lived to tell about it were remarkably silent when they returned home. When asked to write his autobiography, renowned war hero General George C. Marshall said he refused to profit from performing his duty. Through his research of the Second World War, decorated war veteran, Lt. Gen. Josiah Bunting III, former superintendent of the Virginia Military Academy, concluded that one of the problems ailing America today is that it lacks the cohesiveness of shared values and sense of duty of World War II. Bunting was the featured speaker at Campbell University’s 18th annual Anne T. Moore Humanities Lecture sponsored by the Department of Government History and Justice. “While our forces fight just as valiantly in the Iraq War and are just as honorable and self-sacrificing,” Bunting said, “The country entered World War II a united polity and stayed that way. Think about the way you felt after 9-11, you were proud to be an American, but that feeling dissipated quickly after we entered the Iraq War.” With a population of 135 million in the 1940s, 12.1 million men and women were members of the armed services. Today, America’s population is 360 million and only 28 million serve in the volunteer forces. The caliber of leadership is different also, Bunting added. “Roosevelt was a titan, a bonafide hero. He talked to the country incessantly. Through his Fireside Chats, he engaged the country as people with a common enterprise.” This is currently one of the most divisive periods in American history, with polls reflecting a rising number of people opposed to the war, Bunting said. “We have to solicit our national history to know how to deal with situations like these. We must have historical ballast and a historical frame of reference.” General Josiah Bunting III, is the author of the Vietnam War novel, “The Lionheads,” voted one of the ten best novels of 1973 by “Time Magazine.” Bunting was the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute from 1995 until 2003, and is a lifelong educator who graduated from VMI in 1963 and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Oxford University, where he was president of the American Students Association. He also served as headmaster of the Lawrenceville School, Hampden-Sydney College and Briarcliff College. Bunting entered the U.S. Army in 1966, serving in Vietnam and teaching at West Point, where he was an assistant professor of history and social sciences. He is president of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation in New York and chairman of the Naitonal Civic Literacy Board at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. His last published book is a biography of Ulysses S. Grant, and he is currently at work on a biography of General George C. Marshall. As the 13th superintendent of VMI, Bunting was commissioned as a major general in the Virginia Militia. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 2002.Photo Copy: Lt. Gen. Josiah Bunting, III speaks at Campbell University’s Lynch Auditorium, Tuesday, March 14. Bunting gave the annual Anne T. Moore Humanities Lecture address. (Photo by Scott Capell)

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