Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) tells Breitbart News he does not want President Barack Obama to offer Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a presidential pardon.
Bergdahl is awaiting court martial for his actions in Afghanistan that led to him being captured while he was deployed with the 25th Infantry Division.
“Sergeant Bergdahl betrayed his fellow soldiers and put the lives of American troops at risk when he walked off his post,” Buchanan, an Air Force veteran, says. “He needs to be held accountable and face a court-martial for desertion. Failure to do so would send a horrible message to all of the soldiers who sacrifice so much in the service of their country.”
Bergdahl rejoined American forces May 31, 2014 after the president agreed to release five senior Taliban terrorists from U.S. custody at the Theater Internment Facility at Naval Station of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Bergdahl held the rank of specialist at the time his absence began, but it is the practice of the Army to promote soldiers held by enemy forces, when they become eligible for their next rank.
Obama, speaking in Warsaw shortly after announcing the deal to free Bergdahl, said it was his duty as commander-in-chief to bring the soldier home.
“The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is we don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind,” the president said. “We still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that,” he added.
The Idaho native is charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with one count of Article 85, “Desertion with Intent to Shirk Important or Hazardous Duty,” and one count of Article 99, “Misbehavior Before The Enemy by Endangering the Safety of a Command, Unit or Place.” Bergdahl disappeared June 30, 2009, from Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and was subsequently captured.
Buchanan said he and Bergdahl’s comrades are not confused about the circumstances of failure to successfully complete his tour of duty.
Members of the Tropic Lighting paratrooper’s platoon has called him a deserter and his NCO Sgt. Matt Vierkant, has called for Bergdahl to face military trial for desertion and even said that his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him, the congressman said.
“It has been seven years since Sergeant Bergdahl chose to abandon his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan during a time of war,” Buchanan said. “He should be court-martialed and held accountable.”
At least six service members were killed in action during search operations for Bergdahl, he said.
Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers have also detailed that in the days and weeks after Bergdahl left his post and walked outside the wire of his unit’s camp, attacks on U.S. forces picked up, he said.
A pardon would allow Bergdahl to escape his court-martial, which is scheduled to begin April 18, 2017. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.