Resentment grows as freed US captive Bowe Bergdahl is called a deserter
Father says his son might still be alive if Bowe Bergdahl had not left his post
Robert Andrews believes his own son might still be alive if US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had not gone missing from his Afghan guard post on June 30, 2009.
As Bergdahl emerges from five years of Taliban captivity, former comrades are accusing him of walking away from his unit and prompting a massive manhunt they say cost the lives of at least six fellow soldiers, including Andrews' 34-year-old son, Darryn, a second lieutenant.
"Basically, my son died unnecessarily, hunting for a guy that we shouldn't even have been hunting for," Andrews said.
The sense of pride expressed by Obama administration officials over Bergdahl's release in exchange for five Taliban prisoners on Saturday is not shared by many of those who served alongside him in Afghanistan or the families of those said to have died trying to bring him back.
The US military has not said how Bergdahl fell into the insurgents' hands, but several of those from his unit say he became disillusioned with the war and abandoned his post during a nighttime guard shift, an act of desertion that would normally incur severe punishment.
"I think he wanted to get away from our side of the war," said Greg Leatherman, who says he was in charge of Bergdahl's unit the night he disappeared.
By contrast, Bergdahl's home town in Hailey, Idaho, is treating him like a hero, planning a June 28 rally in support of him.
Colonel Tim Marsano, of the Idaho National Guard, who acts as the Bergdahl family's media liaison, said they would have no comment on the accusations made by former soldiers and relatives of those who may have been killed in the hunt for him.
Military officials have investigated Bergdahl's disappearance but have never publicly offered an explanation, in part, they say, because they have not had a chance to question the man.
While he was a prisoner, the army encouraged soldiers in Bergdahl's unit to sign a non-disclosure agreement on the grounds that discussion could endanger his safety while in captivity, several soldiers said, but now that he is free some have begun to speak out.