Army Judge, Colonel Jeffrey Nance ruled in the Bowe Bergdahl sentencing that the former Sgt. now a private doesn’t have to serve any jail time. The judge in a surprising ruling, reduced Bergdahl to private, forfeiture of $1000 a month for 10 months and put him out of the service with a dishonorable discharge. The biggest question and one that will probably never be answered to anyone’s gratification is, “was justice done?”
Pvt. Bergdahl chose to walk away from his unit in Afghanistan, chose to seek out the Taliban, mailing most of his personal effects home to his parents. Telling them of his plan. It was only after his return to the United States that his story changed. He was leaving his post to seek out his commander because of supposed issues within his unit. His story that he tried to escape and was tortured has never been questioned or verified. Self-serving? You be the judge.
His unit and others made a concerted effort to find him. Several soldiers were killed and injured. One of those soldiers, Master Sergeant Mark Allen was shot thru both temples and is permanently confined to a wheelchair. A Navy SEAL who also went on a rescue mission suffered wounds that force his separation from the service. Another soldier got hit with a rocket-propelled grenade and suffered permanent damage to his hand. But according to both his lawyers and the judge, Bergdahl had suffered enough. What about those three soldiers? Have they suffered enough? Apparently not to Bergdahl’s attorney, because their injuries were permanent. Was justice served?
Bergdahl walked off his post in 2009 and was scooped up by the Taliban within hours, and after his parents were the guests of the President, he traded five Taliban detainees in Guantanamo Bay to get Bergdahl back.
Because all dishonorable discharges are automatically reviewed, Pvt Bergdahl’s lawyers are already working on an appeal and as such, if his discharge status is changed, then the VA will be treating him for a variety of illnesses, including what is reported to be a schizotypal personality disorder, a schizophrenia-like condition, and post-traumatic stress disorder when he walked away from his unit in Afghanistan.
His lawyer, Eugene Fidell read a statement outside the courtroom and said Bergdahl was grateful to those who had searched for him and worked to secure his release, plus “those good-hearted people who have expressed sympathy for his plight and have been willing to wait for the facts to emerge rather than relying on assumptions or politically inspired misinformation.”
In a report by NBC News, Fidell is already making his case for complete dismissal of charges which will change Bergdahl’s status. And he’s already trying his case in the court of public opinion, making light of Bergdahl’s desertion and trying President Trump for his comments about this case.
“On the other hand, President Trump’s unprincipled effort to stoke a lynch-mob atmosphere while seeking our nation’s highest office has cast a dark cloud over the case,” he continued, referring to criticism Trump made about Bergdahl in the past.
Dishonorable discharges automatically trigger an appeal in military court. Fidell said he would pursue an appeal, citing a need for Bergdahl to receive benefits in light of his mental health.
“A dishonorable discharge is a lifetime stigma,” Fidell said.
He added that he looked forward to the appeal and that he felt Trump weighing in on the case had caused one of the “most preposterous” legal minefields in American history.
“We think there’s an extremely strong basis for dismissal of the case,” Fidell said.
During the 2016 presidential election, Trump, when asked about Bergdahl stated that he was a “dirty, rotten traitor.” And that he should be shot by a firing squad or tossed from an aircraft without a parachute.
Judge Nance halted the sentencing hearing for a short time after seeing a video of Trump in mid-October when asked about his campaign trail comments in which he said he couldn’t discuss the Bergdahl case, but added, “But I think people have heard my comments in the past.”
His military defense attorney Captain Nina Banks reiterated during the sentencing hearing that Bergdahl had been punished enough. She said the torture he received at the hands of the Taliban and his being labeled a traitor was more than enough. She said that, “it is undisputed, that Bergdahl has paid a heavy price.”
There were reports that Bergdahl helped military intelligence organizations on how the Taliban treat their captives. Bergdahl reportedly remembered all of the details of his incarceration which were characterized as a “treasure trove.” Could that have played a role in his non-sentencing? Absolutely.
But there were many in his former unit that weren’t jumping for joy at his return. A former sergeant in his unit, Matt Vierkant said he was a deserter. “I was pissed off then, and I am even more so now with everything going on,” said Vierkant. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”
One thing that the judge didn’t rule on was his ability to turn a profit on his experiences. He is not under any kind of gag order prohibiting his writing a book on his time with the Taliban and you can rest assured that some publishers will be soon rushing to get his story in print. Meanwhile, six of his ex-platoon mates who were trying to get a book published calling for Bergdahl’s prosecution weren’t finding any takers because publishers didn’t like the idea because it would have discredited President Obama.
Former Sergeants Evan Buetow and Cody Full wanted to set the record straight. “There was no way we were going to sit down and be quiet while Obama was calling him a war hero,” said Buetow. “We’re just trying to tell the truth. It’s not my fault this would make Obama look bad.”
“We didn’t politicize this,” said Full, Sgt. Bergdahl’s former roommate. “They brought his parents out at a White House Rose Garden ceremony and presented him as a hero. Why wouldn’t you just have a quiet press release? Why do you have to have a big parade? You don’t do that for the parents who have kids who have died in Afghanistan.”
So was justice served on Bowe Bergdahl? The feeling here is absolutely not. And what kind of message does this send to the troops who continue to serve honorably?