The Burden of Bergdahl

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The Burden of Bergdahl

Charlie Cochrane, Staff Writer

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Bowe Bergdahl was enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2008 and was deployed as a machine gunner to Outpost Mest Malak in Paktika Province of eastern Afghanistan. On the night of June 30, 2009, Bergdahl left his post and was captured and imprisoned by the militant group, Haqqani, which has ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The terrorist group held Bergdahl captive until 2014, when then-President Obama negotiated  what became a controversial release of Bergdahl in exchange for 5 Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba.

Bergdahl was looked at by many as a traitor, especially by our president, Donald Trump, during his election campaign. “We’re tired of Sergeant Bergdahl, who’s a traitor, a no good traitor, who should have been executed.”

Bergdahl described what life was like as a captive of the taliban in a note released by his attorney Eugene Fidell. Bergdahl told in his note that he had made 12 unsuccessful attempts to escape, each time he was recaptured, he was beaten severely. In his first three months as a captive of the Taliban, Bergdahl was chained to a bed, spread eagle and blindfolded, he was fed elbow noodles, rice and two waters per day.

“After the first year they put me inside a cage. In there my hands were always handcuffed in front of me, being taken off only on the few times I would wash and change clothes … I had between 8 and 12 open wounds on each wrist under the hand shackles…. (Bergdahl) was continuously shown Taliban videos. Told I was going to be executed. Told I was never going back. Told I would leave the next day and the next day told I would be there for 30 years. Told I was going to die there. Told to kill myself. Told I would have my ears and nose cutoff, as well as other parts of my body.”

In July of 2014, Bergdahl was announced fit to return back to duty, until the Army launched an investigation involving Bergdahl’s whereabouts on the night of June 30, 2009.  Sergeant Bergdahl plead guilty for his crimes of desertion and misbehavior. He was charged with one count of desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty and one count of misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.

“I think what Bergdahl did, leaving his post in the night was idiotic and that Bergdahl deserves the punishment he received for his actions,” Junior John Powers said after asking him what he thought about Bergdahl’s actions and whether or not his punishment was fair.

Bergdahl was nearly thrown in jail for life due to his actions, but was spared any additional incarceration because he was showing signs of schizotypal personality disorder. As the trial continued, Bergdahl chose to forego a trial by jury in August 2017 and instead left the fate of his case to a military judge.

By October 23, 2017, Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing began at Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina. November 3, 2017 Bergdahl was dishonorably discharged, but would not serve time in prison. The military judge also ruled that Bergdahl’s Sergeant ranking would be decreased to an E1 ranking, which in turn led the judge to declare Bergdahl has to pay a $1,000 fine to compensate for the pay he received with the Sergeant ranking.