Soldiers who served with Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier in Afghanistan released in exchange for five Taliban members held in Guantanamo Bay, regard him as a deserter — and some want to put him on trial.
The Taliban held Bergdahl for five years, and this weekend he was freed and transferred to a German hospital. But not everyone in the U.S. military celebrated his release.
Former Sergeant Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon, wants Bergdahl to stand trial for desertation under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to CNN.
“I was pissed off then and I am even more so now with everything going on. Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him,” Vierkant said.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel dodged reporters’ direct questions about Bergdahl’s loyalty.
“Our first priority is assuring his well-being and his health and getting him reunited with his family… Other circumstances that may develop and questions, those will be dealt with later,” he said.
As many as six soldiers lost their lives trying to find Bergdahl. According to the late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings, Bergdahl told his fellow soldiers he stopped supporting U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan.
Bowe wrote emails supposedly explaining his position to his parents.
“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,” he wrote. “I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting.”
The emails were not verified by CNN.
Soldiers in his platoon claimed he abandoned guard duty with a knife, compass, drinkable water, and a couple of other survival items in late June 2009.
According to Bergdahl’s former squad leader, Greg Leatherman, Bergdahl “always looked at the mountains in the distance and talked of ‘seeing what’s on the other side.'”
First class private Jose Baggett told CNN that two men were killed thanks to Bergdahl’s abandonment.
“He walked off. He left his guard post. Nobody knows if he defected or he’s a traitor or he was kidnapped,” Baggett said. “What I do know is he was there to protect us and instead he decided to defer from America and go and do his own thing. I don’t know why he decided to do that, but we spend so much of our resources and some of those resources were soldiers’ lives.”
Vierkan also questioned the White House’s decision to release Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl.
“I don’t understand why we’re trading prisoners at Gitmo for somebody who deserted during a time of war, which is an act of treason,” Vierkan said.