After several emotionally charged days of testimony, Colonel Jeffrey Nance handed down Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s sentence. Bergdahl will receive a reduction in rank to E-1 (Private); will receive a $1,000 fine for the next ten months, and a dishonorable discharge from the Army. As a result, he will lose all veteran’s benefits, including medical care.
Bergdahl’s case has been the center of much controversy. From the prisoner exchange, which brought him home to comments made by President Trump after his sentencing, the political arena has been polarized on the topic of Bergdahl. So what now?
A Tough Decision
How Colonel Nance arrived at his decision is still unknown. He made no remarks after delivering the sentence and left the courtroom as soon as sentencing was handed down. It would appear that the judge simply wanted, now that his task was complete, to disown the situation entirely.
While the prosecution asked for 14 years of jail time, in conjunction with the dishonorable discharge, the defense contended that Bergdahl’s five years in captivity were punishment enough. Captain Nina Banks, member of the defense counsel, summed up the defense’s position plainly:
“Justice is not rescuing SGT Bergdahl from his Taliban captors, in a cage where he was for years, only to place him in a cell.”
Bergdahl’s desertion and the search that followed led to the injury of several service members and the death of a military working dog, which the prosecution wanted to be taken into consideration at sentencing. In the end, COL Nance opted to side with the defense. Bergdahl did not receive jail time, but the dishonorable discharge carries with it a social stigma.
President Trump’s comments have been discussed at length during the Bergdahl saga. Defense attorneys attempted to demonstrate that the President’s comments as a candidate, coupled with his affirmation of those views once in office, prevented Bergdahl from receiving a fair hearing. They concluded that such comments were tantamount to Unlawful Command Influence.
COL Nance denied the motion to dismiss the case on those grounds, stating that he was not influenced by President Trump’s comments. Nance intends to retire at his current rank and does not need to garner favor from superiors. He did indicate, however, that the statements could contribute to a less severe sentence.
After the sentence was passed, President Trump took to Twitter (surprise!) and called the decision “a complete disgrace to our Country and to our Military.” But was it?
Why are the five years Bowe Bergdahl spent in Taliban torture and captivity not “time served” for his crimes of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy? Because he is a traitor? What act of treason did he commit? He, a psychologically fragile fool who should never have been allowed in the Army, made an idiotic decision. Five years as a tortured hostage paid for that decision.
Does he deserve more jail time because six soldiers died looking for him? FACT CHECK: No one died looking for Bergdahl (except a military service dog). We have known this for some time.The “six men who died searching for Bergdahl” were killed in August/September 2009. The search for Bergdahl was called off in mid-June. Staff Sergeant Clayton Bowen and Private First Class Walker were killed on August 18, 2009, by a roadside bomb while on a mission to provide security for an election. Staff Sergeant Curtiss died August 26 while supporting Afghan security forces under attack. Staff Sergeant Murphrey died during a humanitarian mission on September 6. Second Lieutenant Andres and Private First Class Martinek were killed during a September 4 attack while on a logistics mission (PFC Martinek died from his wounds a week later).
Bowe Bergdahl was held captive and mistreated by the enemy for five long years. He, regardless of the circumstances of his capture, deserved to come home. He was one of our own and ALL of them, even the stupid ones, deserve to come home. He will live with the memory and the trauma of his captivity for the rest of his days, and the guilt of the pain he wrought on the lives of those injured looking for him will follow him forever.
Bowe Bergdahl’s five years in captivity have already given him a life sentence. His continued suffering is punishment enough.