• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 18s

Bowe Bergdahl: Hero or deserter?

By CBS/AP 3:50 PM June 2, 2014

In his hometown of Hailey, Idaho, signs celebrate Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release after he was held for five years by the Taliban. But there is concern, especially in military circles, about whether Bergdahl should be welcomed as a hero, or punished as a deserter.

It is widely believed that Bergdahl walked off the base where he was stationed in Afghanistan in 2009. CBS News’ David Martin reports that one Pentagon official described him as “at worst, a deserter. At best, a stupid kid who caused us to expend great energy and resources to bring him home.”

A Pentagon investigation concluded in 2010 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his unit, and after an initial flurry of searching the military decided not to exert extraordinary efforts to rescue him, the AP reported Monday, citing a former senior defense official who was involved in the matter.

The former Pentagon official told the AP it was “incontrovertible” that he walked away from his unit.

The military investigation was broader than a criminal inquiry, this official said, and it didn’t formally accuse Bergdahl of desertion. In interviews, members of his unit portrayed him as a naive, “delusional” person who thought he could help the Afghan people by leaving his army post, the official said.

Former members of Bergdahl’s unit have taken to the airwaves and social mediacalling him a deserter and alleging other soldiers were actually killed searching for him.

Josh Korder, a former sergeant in Bergdahl’s unit, has the names of those soldiers tattooed on his body.

“They were never nationally televised for their sacrifices in the way that he is and he pretty much voluntarily walked away and in turn, caused, you know, the actions that may have killed them,” Korder told CNN.

Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served as an officer in Bergdahl’s unit, said in an article Monday on the Daily Beast website that Bergdahl was not on patrol, as some reports have suggested.

“There was no patrol that night,” he wrote. “Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I’ve talked to members of Bergdahl’s platoon – including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I’ve reviewed the relevant documents. That’s what happened.”In his piece, Bethea named six American soldiers he said were killed in the search for Bergdahl.

“For the veterans of the units that lost these men, Bergdahl’s capture and the subsequent hunt for him will forever tie to their memories, and to a time in their lives that will define them as people,” Bethea wrote. “He has finally returned. Those men will never have the opportunity.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment on earlier reports that the sergeant had walked away from his unit, disillusioned with the war. Such matters “will be dealt with later,” Hagel said.

Hagel, visiting troops in Afghanistan, was met with silence when he told a group of them in a Bagram Airfield hangar: “This is a happy day. We got one of our own back.”

Rolling Stone magazine quoted emails Bergdahl is said to have sent to his parents that suggest he was disillusioned with America’s mission in Afghanistan, had lost faith in the U.S. Army’s mission there and was considering desertion.

Bergdahl told his parents he was “ashamed to even be American.” Bergdahl, who mailed home boxes containing his uniform and books, also wrote: “The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong.”

Detractors have created a Facebook page called “Bowe Bergdahl is NOT a hero.” There is also a petition calling for Bergdahl to be court martialed for desertion. “Bring punishment to Bowe Bergdahl and let the public know that the military holds all members to the same standard,” the petition reads.

Back in his Idaho hometown, CBS News’ Bigad Shaban reports how Bergdahl’s supporters in the tight-knit community are preparing a hero’s welcome. The annual “Bring Bowe Back” rally later this month has been turned into a celebration now called “Bowe IS Back.”

Questions about his capture, supporters told Shaban, aren’t their concern.

“He did his best to be an Army soldier,” said Sue Martin, the owner of Zaney’s River Street Coffee House, where Bergdahl used to work. “He’s done enough after five years.”

CBS News/AP

Latest Stories

  • News

    At annual gathering, legendary pilot shares his love of flying

    by Eric Ruble on Apr 30, 19:05

    Inside the FedEx hangar at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is any pilot’s dream — Brand-new planes sit alongside historic models. Dozens of booths ring the hangar with the latest gear in aviation technology. The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering was organized by the Alaska Airmen Association (AAA), which expects at least 23,000 people to attend […]

  • News

    Spenard celebrates neighborhood renaissance

    by Eric Ruble on Apr 30, 15:05

    Once one of Anchorage’s grittiest neighborhoods, Spenard is now home to a wide spectrum of artists, musicians and young families. Chef Amanda Cash said it was the obvious choice when looking for a permanent home for her food truck, Magpie Kitchen at Large. “I live in the neighborhood, and I believe in the neighborhood,” Cash […]

  • Politics

    Alaska Republican Party elects new chairman

    by Liz Raines on Apr 30, 12:53

    Tuckerman Babcock is taking over as chairman of the Alaska Republican Party after a vote by members at the state convention in Fairbanks Saturday morning. Babcock won by 52 percent in a three-way race against Ann Brown and Ric Davidge. The final count came after more than 40 minutes of debate on the party’s rules […]

  • News

    Faster than a Falcon: Kids, parents race to beat mascot in Mountain View 5K

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 30, 11:34

    Participants of the seventh-annual Faster Than a Falcon 5K run took off through Mountain View Saturday morning, hoping to win a special prize. The goal for racers each year is to beat a costumed “falcon” runner to the finish line for a special prize. This year’s “falcon” runner was dressed as a raven, who joked, […]

  • News

    Terminating parental rights: State policies vary widely

    by on Apr 30, 11:11

    For child-welfare agencies across the United States, it’s the ultimate sanction: terminating the rights of parents to raise their own children due to concerns about abuse and neglect. All states resort to this step when deemed necessary for a child’s well-being, but there are wide state-to-state disparities in the rate of terminations and the extent […]

  • Sports

    Globetrotters coach a UAA basketball coach

    by Dave Leval on Apr 29, 22:03

    It was a mutual admiration’s society, Thursday morning, on the court at Alaska Airlines Center. The Harlem Globetrotters stopped by for an arranged media gathering and in the process also coached the coach. UAA women’s basketball head coach Ryan McCarthy received a few tips from the Globetrotters before deciding whether or not he should join […]

  • Politics

    Could Alaska choose the republican presidential nominee? It’s possible.

    by Liz Raines on Apr 29, 21:53

    It’s an exciting weekend for hundreds of Alaska Republicans at the state GOP convention in Fairbanks. The delegates chosen there could play a key role in the national convention in Cleveland this summer. It all stems from the local party’s last-minute decision to let Marco Rubio keep the five delegates he won in Alaska during […]

  • Lifestyle

    AK Mission of Mercy offers free dental care to those in need

    by Lauren Maxwell on Apr 29, 20:47

    Not everyone likes to go to the dentist, but hundreds of people were feeling grateful after they got the chance to go Friday. That’s because their dental care was free at an event called AK Mission of Mercy. More than 500 people showed up at the Dena’ina Center to get everything from teeth cleanings to […]