• 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

  • On-Air

    Mic Check in Morning: East High School Ukulele Society for Better Living

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 24, 10:19

    A group of students at an Anchorage high school is inspiring others through the sound of music. The East High School Ukulele Society for Better Living performed live for Daybreak’s Mic Check in the Morning.

  • On-Air

    Get Out: Putters Wild

    by Brett Shepard on Oct 24, 9:23

    Last week I went disc golfing out at Kincaid Park. This week I’m back to a more traditional style of golf and I’ve brought a friend along. Janessa Webb joined me for this Get Out and we challenged each other to a friendly game of golf. “Here we have 18 holes of blacklight mini golf. There’s […]

  • News

    Seismologists study earthquakes near Minto

    by Associated Press on Oct 24, 9:06

    The Alaska state seismologist says big things may be coming from faults near the village of Minto about 50 miles west of Fairbanks. The third earthquake of at least magnitude 5.0 since Aug. 30 rocked the area Thursday. State seismologist Michael West tells the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner the area has become “very vigorous” and faults […]

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Oct. 24

    by KTVA Weather on Oct 24, 8:40

    Friday brings a little more cloud coverage along with light rain and snow by afternoon. Clouds will start to fade away as we head into Saturday afternoon with Sunday being the day where sunshine will shine bright. Highs today will be in the upper-30s to low-40s with light winds. A storm system out of the […]

  • News

    End the cycle of violence a key message at AFN

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 24, 8:21

    Violence affects all communities across Alaska in many different ways. It’s often hard to talk about. The Alaska Federation of Natives Convention is one place where people aren’t shying away from the topic. “Be the one to pull your family together and make them stronger. If you are in a bad situation, make it better. […]

  • News

    FBI investigated Guard while Sullivan was attorney general

    by Kate McPherson on Oct 24, 7:36

    Gov. Sean Parnell says he met with Alaska National Guard Adjutant Gen. Thomas Katkus 41 times over a four-year period beginning in 2010 to discuss allegations of sexual assault, fraud and other serious problems within the AKNG. At the time of some of the meetings, Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan was the state’s attorney general, […]

  • News

    Alaska Federation of Natives Convention: Day 1

    by Rhonda McBride on Oct 24, 7:00

    The theme of this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives convention, “Rise as One,” reverberated through its opening day on Thursday, in both big and small ways. AFN organizers say the theme is a call to action. At a noon rally outside the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage, marchers chanted, “Free the four. Free the four.” […]

  • News

    US, Canada monitor barge adrift off Arctic Slope

    by Associated Press on Oct 23, 23:01

    U.S. and Canadian authorities are monitoring a barge carrying nearly 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel that’s drifting in the Beaufort Sea. The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday the 134-foot barge broke free from its tow in Canadian waters during a severe storm earlier this week. Canadian aircraft located the barge drifting west in U.S. waters. […]