Fellow soldiers call Bowe deserter, not hero

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by Karen Zatkulak

KREM.com

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 3 at 5:30 AM

BOISE -- As celebrations in Idaho continue over the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, there are also concerns about how and why he disappeared nearly five years ago

Ever since June 30, 2009 there have been questions about exactly how Sgt. Bergdahl was captured.

Now that he's been released, we're hearing from those who fought with him in the 501st brigade.

On Monday, KTVB talked by phone with one soldier who didn't want to be identified.

He is still an active member of the military and said at the time of Bowe's disappearance, the soldiers were told not talk about it.

"He is not a hero, and he should not, in any way shape or form, be treated as such," the soldier said.

He says he was on gate guard the morning that he was first discovered missing.

He says fellow soldiers reported that Bergdahl had been talking about wandering, and walked away intentionally with no plans to return.

"From the people that I know who were there, there was no doubt that he had left. It was unmistakable," the soldier said.

Which is why some are criticizing Bowe. There's a petition online with thousands of signatures called "Punish Bowe Bergdahl for being AWOL / Desertion during Operation Enduring Freedom."

There is also a facebook page titled: "Bowe Bergdahl is NOT a hero."

It's clearly emotional for those who were there and knew the men who reportedly died in the search for Bergdahl.

"It was hurtful because great soldiers, great men, are not here anymore because of it," the soldier said.

Some soldiers are calling for an investigation, saying Sgt. Bergdahl should be labeled a deserter not a hero.

"He deserted not only the army, but he also left myself and my platoon and my company to clean up his mess," said Joshua Corneilison, who served in Afghanistan in 2009.

But government officials say right now we should focus on Bowe's health, not his history.

"I don't think right now that we know exactly what was in his mind when he left that post. But lets not forget he was held captive as a prisoner for five years. Five years by himself. That's a pretty high price to pay for whatever compelled him to walk off that base," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, U.S. Navy.

It seems the questions will remain unanswered until the government talks with Bowe himself, as he recovers in hospital in Germany.

"The Defense Department will obviously -- has been and will continue to be the lead in terms of evaluating all of the circumstances surrounding his initial detention and his captivity," said White House Press Secretary John Carney.

The soldier we talked to by phone did not know Bergdahl personally, but says he had met some of the men who died in the several month search for him.

Some reports are that at least six soldiers died looking for Bowe.

Again, Bergdahl was never classified as a deserter during the time he was held.

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