Those close to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl are finding the toll of supporting him through allegations of desertion and anti-Americanism increasingly challenging. The FBI has revealed that Bergdahl’s parents have received threats for their public support of their son, while residents of his hometown say they have become “tired” of the “negativity.”
The FBI confirmed to CNN this weekend that the Bergdahl family has received threats, though it declined to specify what was in the threats or how serious each one appeared to be. FBI Special Agent William Facer said in a statement that the FBI is “working jointly with our state and local partners and taking each threat seriously.” CNN notes that a military spokesperson for the Bergdahl family did not comment on the threats, either.
Bergdahl’s release from captivity under the Taliban has triggered immense speculation about the conditions under which the Taliban released him and just how he found himself in Taliban custody. Those who served with Bergdahl have alleged that the sergeant walked off his base willingly, while Afghan villagers who encountered him after his departure reported being confused by seeing an American soldier walk, apparently purposefully, towards Taliban strongholds and refuse food and shelter. Evidence circulating that Bergdahl actively sought a meeting with Taliban members has prompted many questions as to whether releasing five high-level Taliban officials to bring Bergdahl back to America was in the best interests of American national security.
The Bergdahls’ behavior has been pivotal in escalating the volume of questions regarding the Obama administration’s handling of Bergdahl’s release. A Washington Times report has unveiled that the White House kept the Bergdahls very much informed as to sensitive security matters regarding their son, participating in up to twenty video phone conferences between White House staff and military officials on the subject. Bergdahl’s parents were on the receiving end of some incendiary emails from their son the day he left the base, in which Bergdahl attacked America and the American military and expressed disillusion with his mission.
While his parents face the scrutiny of public opinion, Bergdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, is starting to cope with a similar phenomenon. The town had originally organized a comeback celebration for Bergdahl, but the welcome received national attention and thus attracted threats, and organizers cancelled the event for safety reasons.
In an extensive piece for USA Today, writer Marco della Cava finds Hailey residents increasingly frustrated with scrutiny of Bergdahl becoming attacks on them. “We’re just a small community that cares about those who go out and fight for us. For us to be criticized because we care, that’s not right. They’re calling our town a traitor town. That’s offensive,” said Jane Drussel, who owns a local shop and began receiving negative messages after hanging up a “Welcome Home Bowe” sign. “I’m tired, and I’m starting to get a little angry at the negativity,” she says. Other residents, like Idaho Mountain Express editor Greg Foley, reflect their concerns about the town back onto the Bergdahl family. “Before the release, there was 100% unity, but now that’s changed a bit,” he says, “…what’s very clear, though, is that for the Bergdahls this is the beginning of the road, not the end.”
Military authorities have asserted that there will be a detailed investigation into what led to Bergdahl’s capture and, subsequently, putting American soldiers in danger to save him and sending extremely dangerous Taliban leaders back into freedom to achieve his return. While Bergdahl continues to recover in a hospital in Germany, examining the facts of the situation will take months, if not years, to fully complete.