The US Army Values are Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl apparently forgot these when, on June 30, 2009, he deserted his unit in Afghanistan, where he wanted to, in his words, “make the world a better place.”
SGT Bergdahl also forgot that he was wearing the uniform of the United States Army, and that armies fight wars. He signed up. No one forced him into service, and no one forced him to continue service if at any point he decided he had had enough.
In the Army there are legitimate avenues of redress of grievances, and now more than ever before. Your chain of command, the Chaplain, a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer, or even the highest commander above where you think your problem lies.
SGT Bergdahl had whipped himself into an almost psychotic state of isolation, from his unit, from his battle-buddies and even from himself. In the end, the enemy seemed more desirable than the mess he had made in his foxhole.
The circumstances under which SGT Bergdahl was released, the trade of five Taliban leaders, notwithstanding, there is a reckoning on the way. That trade has its own implications of treason, but for another time.
As we enter into the penalty phase of military legal proceedings to determine not whether or not he is guilty of the crimes of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, for he plead guilty to those charges, but what punishment he will receive.
Some say SGT Bergdahl has suffered enough.
Some say he is not fit to live, let alone wear the uniform.
Several witnesses have testified about their war injuries and losses they claim happened because of Bergdahl’s desertion.
There were rumors but no evidence that SGT Bergdahl had given the enemy critical information about the unit and its operations and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). This would allow the enemy to anticipate the unit’s movements and tendencies, deadly information.
Some say while searching for SGT Bergdahl they were hit and men died. One man, a former Navy SEAL, claimed tearfully that his service dog was killed on one such mission.
In my opinion, all this testimony is over-engineering. It’s all good, but shouldn’t be necessary to complete the project. He deserted in time of war.
How do you maintain good order and discipline if you allow folks to just walk away?
There is no claim of insanity. There is no plea bargain. There is no excuse.
The punishment for desertion can be death.
The reason for this goes back to the beginning of human conflict. If you run in the face of the enemy you have abdicated your responsibility as a member of the group to help keep the group safe.
In our own Revolutionary War and subsequent conflicts, such as the Civil War, it wasn’t so much power and punch that won the day as which side would run first.
Name a war or conflict, and what wins the day more times than not is the will to win or survive. Fight or flight.
This is why the American Army is so effective; we are trained that in war the mission comes first. We are trained to never leave a soldier behind. We are trained be good teammates. We are trained to care for each other, help each other and protect each other. And in the foxhole, when the bullets are flying, it’s about you and your battle-buddy, fighting for your lives.
The bigger picture is that you are defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, part of the oath of enlistment that SGT Bergdahl breached.
But if you allow soldiers to run and then suffer no consequences, what are you telling everyone else who swore that same oath. What then does it mean?
In our politically correct, social media, “If it feels good, do it” society, oaths and promises seem blasé and passé. In fact, they are our life’s blood. If we let one instance of obvious and blatant desertion slip through the cracks, what then do we do with the next one, or the next?
Kneeling for the national anthem and the absence of even one American flag on the opening night of a national political convention are not simply warning signs, they are signs of the apocalypse that feed the idea that SGT Bergdahl did nothing wrong. That he is innocent of desertion because he was oppressed and that somehow his actions were free speech.
It’s not about any of that. It’s about loyalty. The number one most important Army value, and value in life.
The acronym constructed out of the Army Values is LDRSHIP (Leadership). The Army aspires to train every soldier to be a leader, because in the American Army, even E-Private Zero, Snuffy Smith is expected to carry out the mission if all the leaders above him are incapacitated, in the spirit of Audie Murphy, the highly decorated farm boy turned hero from WWII who was battlefield promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant and saved many lives with his heroism, over, and over again, all at 5’4” and 112 pounds.We owe it to the memory of all those who gave their lives in defense of this great nation. We owe it to those who were injured and may have died while searching for Bowe Bergdahl, and we owe it to the future of this nation that Bowe Bergdahl’s punishment fit the crime.
The only question that remains is whether or not the military court hearing the evidence against Bowe Bergdahl will see it that way.