• 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

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, July 28

    by KTVA Weather on Jul 28, 9:18

    Anchorage Mostly cloudy with isolated to scattered showers, especially over mountain areas. Highs in the mid to upper 60s. Kenai and Prince William Sound Mostly cloudy with scattered rain showers. Highs in the 50s and 60s. Southeast Alaska Cloudy with rain, heavy at times. Highs in the 50s. Interior/North Slope Mostly cloudy with scattered rain […]

  • News

    Police seek help locating missing Palmer teen

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 28, 9:06

    Anchorage police are asking for help locating a missing 17-year-old last seen in the Tikahtnu Commons area Monday night. Casanova Calderon is a Palmer resident and was in Anchorage with family, according to a statement from Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Castro. He reportedly took off on foot in the Sam’s Club area of the […]

  • News

    Troopers: Woman dies after shooting herself outside Seward prison

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 28, 8:15

    Update: Tuesday, July 28 at 8:30 a.m. The woman — identified as 31-year-old Amanda Bee of North Pole — died at Providence Seward Medical and Care Center Monday evening. Her next-of-kin was aware of her death, troopers say. The State Medical Examiner’s Office was notified and requested an autopsy, troopers said Tuesday. Original story A woman […]

  • Lifestyle

    Scientist: Whale deaths off Alaska island remains mystery

    by Associated Press on Jul 28, 7:14

    A scientist says researchers may never solve the recent deaths of 18 endangered whales whose carcasses were found floating near Alaska’s Kodiak Island. Kate Wynne, a marine mammal specialist for the University of Alaska Sea Grant Program, says samples taken from one of the 10 fin whales were at least a week old, which could […]

  • News

    Apartment owner says plugged storm drain makes city responsible for damages

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jul 27, 21:42

    The owner of an Anchorage apartment building that was flooded by torrential rains says she thinks the city should pay for the damages. Beverly Newby says the city failed to maintain a storm drain that could have helped divert the water that rushed down Cordova Street Saturday night and damaged each of the bottom units […]

  • News

    UPDATE: Missing adults, child located

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 27, 21:08

    Update: Tuesday, July 28 Law enforcement located the trio. Police say they are safe. Original story The Anchorage Police Department is asking for the public’s help locating two adults and a child who are overdue from a fishing trip. Jesse Urias, 35; Sabra Stiner, 31; and Shaniah Adams, 7, left Anchorage on Saturday in a […]

  • News

    Kodiak science students win world competition for earthquake research

    by Heather Hintze on Jul 27, 20:44

    A team of science students from Kodiak can now call themselves world champions. Levi Purdy, John Dunlop, Kyle Ruotsalainen and Anna McDonald represented Kodiak High School at the NASA World Wind Europa Challenge in Italy. “What high school kids get to say in their free time they’re having conference calls with NASA?” McDonald asked rhetorically. […]

  • News

    JBER commander speaks out about Army cuts

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jul 27, 20:35

    On Monday, the commander of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson spoke out for the first time about the coming cuts and what they could mean for the base. Col. Brian Bruckbauer says he is meeting weekly with U.S. Army officials to get a better idea of what their mission will look like in Alaska after the downsizing. […]