Opinion: Bergdahl wasn’t fit to serve his country

Drew Taylor

On Friday, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl avoided prison time for walking off his base in Afghanistan in 2009, resulting in his capture by the Taliban. Rather, he was given a dishonorable discharge.

Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years, was released after a highly controversial decision by then-President Obama to exchange five Guantanamo Bay prisoners into the custody of Qatar.

This was highly criticized by Republican politicians at the time, and President Donald Trump referenced to Bergdahl negatively throughout his campaign, specifically calling him a “traitor” on multiple occasions. These criticisms mostly stem from the belief that soldiers were killed in the search for Bergdahl.

After the decision was made to not give Bergdahl any time in prison, Trump tweeted, “The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military.”

Whether you are a supporter of Bergdahl who thinks he was just an innocent soldier in a difficult situation or a harsh critic of his who believes that he committed treason against the U.S. and got people killed, I think there is another point to be made in this long-running saga.

This entire story is a product of what happens when you put people who are not in the right state of mind in a place that they should not be in.

Three years before the case in question, Bergdahl was discharged by the U.S. Coast Guard for psychological reasons. These personal issues were not private, as the army has admitted they knew about the prior discharge. Despite this, the army was willing to accept him and deploy him to Afghanistan.

People who knew him described him as a loner and even a “perfect example of a person who should not have gone to war.”

This leads us to the major problem in this story: sending people to war with a lack of care for their mental well-being.

Even soldiers in the best mental shape possible struggle to stay strong in these situations, and after leaving, we see high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and other difficulties with their mental health.

So when someone like Bergdahl already shows difficulties going into this situation, it is not shocking when he struggles, then leaves his battalion. It is inhumane to be fine with sending people into war zones and not expect them to struggle, and in the case of someone like Bergdahl, not worry about the worst-case scenarios.

Even if you are the biggest Bergdahl critic and believe what he did was treasonous and directly killed people, you have to admit that he was a man who was not capable of going into a situation as difficult as a war zone. The Army did not keep him safe, and their lack of care for the mental health of those they send into war zones where they should not be speaks volumes.

Drew Taylor is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].