Local veterans voice opinions on Bergdahl's return

He's on his way back to U.S. after 5 years as Taliban captive

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is on his way back to U.S. soil after being released from Taliban captivity after five years.

His release has caused a political firestorm because it was in exchange for five Taliban officers, and allegations have been raised that Bergdahl disappeared in the first place because he deserted his post.

Channel 4's Scott Johnson spoke with local veterans on Thursday who aren't happy with how this has all unfolded.

The U.S. military will have to make the final determination on whether Bergdahl left his post, but most veterans Johnson talked with have already made up their minds.

In veteran halls around town, vets were quick to offer opinions on Bergdahl — and they weren't flattering.

"He's a deserter," veteran Terry Lee said. "We've lost six heroes due to his stupidity. To me, he's not a hero."

"I think he's a traitor," Vietnam veteran John Dukes said.

Bergdahl is expected to land in Texas early Friday. There, he will begin his second phase of the reintegration process. The first phase was done at a military hospital in Germany, where Bergdahl was debriefed and underwent psychological and medical evaluations.

The fact that Bergdahl's release was secured after the U.S. released five Taliban officers isn't sitting well with some veterans.

"The swapping of five prisoners from Guantanamo Bay that are equal to generals and turning them loose to come back against us is deplorable," veteran Charlie Hamaker said.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has been defending the trade, saying Bergdahl was in declining health after five years with the Taliban and repeating the military mantra of leaving no soldier behind.

The Army has not yet begun a new review into the circumstances of Bergdahl's capture, but he will not receive the promotion that would have been automatic had he still been held prisoner.
One other thing that's contingent on the Army's investigation into Bergdahl's capture is that he's owed more than $300,000 in back pay. If it's determined that he was a prisoner of war, he could get $300,000 — or more — on top of that.

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