Infantry Officer Bradley Bethea was in Afghanistan’s Paktika province on June 30, 2009, the day Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl was reported missing.
Bergdahl’s unit was the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. Bethea was part of that same battalion in Afghanistan and took part in searches for the soldier, who was already known as “a deserter.”
Writing in The Daily Beast, Bethea recalls those whose lives were lost in the months of searches for a soldier who had turned his back on this country.
Bethea first points to July 4, when “a wave of insurgents attacked the joint U.S./Afghan outpost at Zerok,” killing two U.S. soldiers. This attack came after four days of searches “enraged the local civilian population and derailed the counterinsurgency operations taking place at the time.”
The two soldiers killed were Private First Class Aaron Fairbairn and Private First Class Justin Casillas. Officers at Zerok blamed Bergdahl for Fairbairn and Casillas’ deaths.
Bethea then describes the deaths of six more killed in the search for Bergdahl:
Though the 2009 Afghan presidential election slowed the search for Bergdahl, it did not stop it. Our battalion suffered six fatalities in a three-week period. On August 18, an IED killed Private First Class Morris Walker and Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen during a reconnaissance mission. On August 26, while conducting a search for a Taliban shadow sub-governor supposedly affiliated with Bergdahl’s captors, Staff Sergeant Kurt Curtiss was shot in the face and killed. On September 4, during a patrol to a village near the area in which Bergdahl vanished, an insurgent ambush killed Second Lieutenant Darryn Andrews and gravely wounded Private First Class Matthew Martinek, who died of his wounds a week later. On September 5, while conducting a foot movement toward a village also thought affiliated with Bergdahl’s captors, Staff Sergeant Michael Murphrey stepped on an improvised land mine. He died the next day.
On May 31, Obama announced that he was trading five top Taliban commanders to secure Bergdahl’s release.
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