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U.S. Army gt. Bowe Bergdahl. (Army / via AP)
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Though Americans may be celebrating the release of the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the reaction of the military community has been mixed at best.
Within an hour of the announcement that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. special forces by the Taliban Saturday evening, Army Times’ Facebook page lit up with hundreds of comments reacting to the news.
Most centered on the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl's capture, which remain something of a mystery. There has been some speculation that he willingly walked away from his unit, raising the question of whether he could be charged with being absent without leave (AWOL) or desertion.
Many angrily called Bergdahl a traitor or a deserter. Stephen Kirouac, calling Bergdahl a “dirtbag” and “sympathizer,” was among many who seized on that speculation to criticize the rescued soldier.
“He is a dirtbag that now should spend the next 20yrs+ in Leavenworth ... his fellow soldiers were affected by his actions, he is a sympathizer and deserves to be tried for desertion," said Kirouac, whose Facebook profile identifies him as a company commander at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Many others felt no matter the circumstances, the military has a duty not to leave any of its members behind.
“My opinion, we never should leave our own [with] the enemy [and] if he needs to be punished, that should be left up to his former chain of command to ensure it happens!!!!” said Tom Robinson, whose Facebook profile identifies him as a veterans counselor for New York State.
Mark Delano was among those who expressed sympathy either for Bergdahl as a brother in arms, or for his family’s for their ordeal, or both.
“This guy may have made a tremendously bad decision, but I'm willing to bet that what he's endured since then has been far worse than anything the US or military judicial system would have imposed,” said Mark Delano. “Have some heart.”
“I am AMAZED at the horrible comments I am seeing on here!” said Robin Leann Messer, a nurse in the Air Force Reserves. “I’ve met his family, and I can not imagine the feeling of just not knowing.”
Others blasted the U.S. government over its release to Qatar of five Afghan detainees who had been held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Bergdahl.
“Since WHEN do we negotiate with terrorists!?!? “ said Jeff Lambert, whose profile identifies him as a specialist in the Army National Guard.