• 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

    Crash temporarily shuts down Seward Hwy overnight

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 27, 23:37

    Last updated at 6:15 a.m. on Sunday, May 28 The Seward Highway was completely closed in both directions for about five hours overnight following a crash at mile 76 near Portage Glacier Road. The crash occurred sometime just before 11 p.m. and the road finally reopened to traffic around 4 a.m. Whittier police were first […]

  • News

    Jet owned by Elvis sold for $430,000 at auction

    by Associated Press on May 27, 19:09

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – A private jet once owned by Elvis Presley has been auctioned after sitting on a runway in New Mexico for 35 years. GWS Auctions Inc. says the plane sold for $430,000 on Saturday at a California event featuring celebrity memorabilia. The auction house says Elvis designed the interior that has gold-tone […]

  • Politics

    Judge dismisses lawsuit against Clinton by Benghazi families

    by Associated Press on May 27, 19:02

    WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton filed by the parents of two Americans killed in the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington says the former secretary of state didn’t defame the parents when disputing allegations that she had lied. The […]

  • News

    Remains of Arkansas soldier killed in Colony Glacier plane crash returned home

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 27, 18:52

    An Arkansas National Guardsman who was killed in plane crash in Alaska 65 years ago has finally made it home. Staff Sgt. Robert Dale Van Fossen was laid to rest Saturday in Little Rock. Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson ordered flags lowered to half mast in Van Fossen’s honor. His remains were found among the wreckage of […]

  • News

    Historic planes head to Dutch Harbor to mark 75th anniversary of Aleutians battle

    by Dave Leval on May 27, 18:43

    John Pletcher’s invitation is too good to ignore — a chance for myself to get back in the sky for the first time in a while. It takes his JRF-5 Grumman Goose just seconds to take flight at Anchorage’s Merrill Field, then it’s off to Dutch Harbor, to take part in the 75th anniversary of […]

  • News

    NTSB investigating separate fatal crashes near Fairbanks, Haines

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 27, 14:46

    Last updated at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 27 Two people are confirmed dead and one is in critical condition following a fatal plane crash near the small Southeast Alaska community of Haines. Alaska State Troopers (AST) confirmed 29-year-old David Kunat of Juneau and an unnamed adult male passenger from California were killed in the crash. Chan Valentine, […]

  • News

    Feds to gain control over Kuskokwim king salmon management

    by Associated Press on May 27, 12:55

    BETHEL, Alaska (AP) – Starting next month, the management of king salmon on a southwestern Alaska river will transfer from state control to federal. KYUK-AM reports that as of June 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will begin to oversee the salmon living on lower and middle Kuskokwim River. Under federal law, the switch is […]

  • Lifestyle

    Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

    by Associated Press on May 27, 11:53

    SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – A publicist for rock legend Gregg Allman says the organist and singer for The Allman Brothers Band has died. He was 69. Ken Weinstein confirmed Saturday that Allman died at his home in Savannah, Georgia. Allman had cancelled some 2016 tour dates for health reasons. In March 2017, he canceled performances […]