One of America’s most infamous soldiers is in the news again. Yesterday, General Robert Abrams—against the findings of the Article 32 investigating officer—recommended Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl face a court martial stemming from his departure from his base camp in 2009. Shortly after he left his base, he was captured by the Taliban and spent five years in captivity until a detainee exchange on May 31, 2014. President Obama’s administration and the Department of Defense have come under fire for the exchange, but the most angry vitriol is reserved for Sgt. Bergdahl himself. Sgt. Bergdahl is often vilified as a traitor by pundits, fellow service members, and presidential candidates. One pundit, a retired Army officer, even went as far as to suggest the Taliban could have saved the U.S. a lot of trouble by eliminating him, less than a month after Bergdahl’s disappearance.
I understand the emotional anger surrounding this incident, but some of the comments are troubling. I am not writing to speculate on the reasons for Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance. He will have a chance to tell his story soon enough through official and unofficial channels.
I will not opine on the worthiness of the detainee exchange to get him back. I do not have a view on his possible sentence. The investigating officer recommended no jail time, but Sgt. Bergdahl could end up with life in prison. What I will say is this: Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is an American citizen, and an American Soldier. He might be a poor one with horrendous judgement but that does not matter. He is ours.
The Code of Conduct establishes the behavior and actions expected of a American service members should they become detainees, captives, or prisoners of war. The last line in Article 6, states: “I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.” This is not just a message of hope; it is an obligation from the United States to the service member. This means the U.S. is going to bring you back home, regardless of the circumstances. This is not just a wish or desire. It is set by Executive Order 10631.
Rigorous debate and heated discussion abound throughout Sgt. Bergdahl’s case on many levels. The merits and consequences of the detainee exchange, the Article 32 investigation, the government’s handling of the case and the requisite media firestorm: none of it changes Bowe Bergdahl’s status as an American citizen and Soldier. He is one of us. He is our responsibility.
I, for one, am glad we got him back.