As the nation awaits a military investigation to help determine the fate of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, locals took time to reflect on the man at the center of a growing national controversy.
“Bring him home and leave him alone,” said Hailey resident Joan Davies, who has known 28-year old Bergdahl since he was a kid.
Davies said she was in favor of a prisoner exchange to free the soldier four years ago.
“There has got to be some common ground,” she said in 2010. “They [the Taliban] are human, too. Through diplomatic negotiations, I think something could be possible. I am not asking for justice. I just would like to see something humanitarian happen.”
Now that Bergdahl has been freed in a prisoner exchange, Davies recalls the despair she felt when the Afghan conflict began in 2001.
“Bergdahl needs a lawyer, and big time.”
Korean War vet and former Hailey resident
“I felt horrible the day the U.S. started this war,” she said. “Now I worry about my two nephews who have just enlisted in the Army. I am concerned for them because they have not had a lot of worldly experiences yet. They are fresh out of high school, and as sweet as can be. They will soon be in boot camp in Georgia.”
Korean War veteran and former Hailey resident Ron Moore was living across the street from Hop Porter Park four years ago when the possibility of a prisoner exchange first appeared in the news.
“In my opinion, it’s time for a reality check in regard to Pfc. Berdahl’s situation,” Moore said in 2010. “He enlisted knowing full well all the possibilities that come with going to war. It’s not a game like hide-and-seek or kick-the-can. One does not ‘go home’ when the going gets tough.”
On Thursday, Moore said, “Bergdahl needs a lawyer, and big time. The military is in a huge position to be embarrassed by this. How does a guy that walks off from his post and is held by the enemy get promoted, not once, but twice? That will eventually have to be answered. I don’t know that he has even been charged with anything.”
Moore said President Barack Obama could also be asked why Bergdahl’s parents got such a “rosy reception” at the White House for a soldier who “[allegedly] walked off of his post.”
Moore said publicity of the Bergdahl saga would surely have an effect on Hailey.
“Bruce Willis and Demi Moore [who own property in Hailey] weren’t able to get Hailey on the map, but this guy [Bergdahl] sure has,” he said.
Community School graduate and former U.S. Army tank commander Jonathan Kennedy, 30, said people should refrain from public celebrations for Bergdahl until the military has had time to ascertain whether he is a deserter.
Kennedy said there is also speculation in the military as to whether Bergdahl aided the enemy. “Until that determination is made, we should not be having parades and celebrations for someone who has allegedly gotten some soldiers killed,” said Kennedy, who works as a media-business executive search firm in New York City.
“I don’t know what he was thinking. But anyone who thinks he can walk off a forward-operating base in Paktika [province] with a knife and not be taken by the Taliban is either stupid or has a mental illness or some strange personality,” he said.
Idaho Mountain Express Publisher Pam Morris spoke to CNN reporters Wednesday, saying she and her staff would remain objective about Bergdahl, even as speculations mount.
“We are reporters, and like every other good journalist in this country we wait until the facts are in,” Morris said. “We do not believe people should be tried by sound bite or by social media, in which there is no accountability.
“This is a military matter and a matter for serious consideration, and we believe all the facts should be gathered before we indulge in character assassination.”
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org