The nation has been mezmerized in political talk for two weeks over the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American prisoner of war held in Afghanistan. It will not take long before some Hollywood screenwriter has penned a made-for-television movie to reveal all the speculations surrounding what will be the first of many attempts to tell Bergdahl's story.
The 28-year old Sun Valley, Idaho native was released after being held by Taliban insurgents for over five years. Bergdahl was released on May 31 after an agreement was brokered by the Obama Administration with representatives from the Afghan government, the Taliban and Qateri officials acting as mediaries, to transfer five high-profile al-Qaeda operatives that were held at Guantanamo Bay military facilities to Qater, a Persian Gulf emirate. According to the agreement, these five men will be held by Qatar under house arrest for at least a year.
Details about Bergdahl's capture are sketchy and, depending upon who is speaking, range from describing an American hero to damning an American traitor. Since his release, Bergdahl has undergone extensive medical treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center military hospital in Germany and, now is located at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. He has been publicly silent on his capture and, in fact, on all matters.
Political hyperbole is running in overdrive, but facts are in short supply. There is an inordinate amount of speculation, second-guessing and, quite frankly, a lack of decency that should be shown to any American soldier during this time.
Here is what is known: An American soldier was being held by the enemy. Bergdahl was in failing health. We do know that he was tortured, confined and deprived of food, medical care and human contact for days (or weeks) at a time. Most importantly, we do know that an American soldier was being held by the enemy. That is reason enough to work for his return home.
Reports have claimed that up to six Americans lost their lives trying to determine Bergdahl's whereabouts immediately after his disappearance. That is unfortunate -- just as any loss of American lives is unfortunate. It is, however, a bedrock principal of the American military that no man will be left behind.
Last night I watched Mel Gibson's extraordinary performance as Lt. Col. Hal Moore in We Were Soldiers (2002). Moore said it best: "I will leave no man behind." That is precisely what America did with Bergdahl--we brought one of our own home where he belongs.
Among the many voices condemning this soldier are comrades that served beside him in Afghanistan. Their condemnations have been pointed and precise, calling Bergdahl a traitor, deserter and a labeling him with a litany of other adjectives. These may be true--they may be only individual perceptions. Until we hear Bergdahl's side of this story, they are out of line.
What are the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture? Did he walk away from his duty? Did he aid the enemy? Until we hear from Bergdahl, ANY answer is mere speculation. It is rumor. It is gossip.
It is unfair to any American.
Bergdahl has a lot of explaining to do, whether he wants to or not. He owes an explanation to miltary officials who have a duty to fully investigate this situation and the circumstances surrounding it. He owes an explanation to his comrades who fought side-by-side with him and searched for him after his capture. And, most importantly, he owes an explanation to the tens of thousands of people all over the country who wore bracelets, posted signs, designed billboards and used social media to keep awareness alive. They never lost hope in Bowe Bergdahl -- now he needs to return that hope to them.
Until that time: Welcome home Bowe!