CBS News – Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant recently exchanged for five Taliban detaineesafter he had spent nearly five years in detention himself, joined the Coast Guard in 2006 and was dismissed just 26 days later, according to military sources.
Lt. Col. Elaine Conway confirmed to CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan that the Army knew that Bergdahl had been “administratively discharged” from the Coast Guard. When asked whether this was known at the time of his enlistment and whether he was given a waiver, an Army spokesperson said they were “looking into it” and could not comment on the grounds for the discharge.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s Lisa Novak confirmed that Bergdahl went to boot camp but was dismissed 26 days later on an “uncharacterized discharge,” which means that he didn’t serve long enough to have his performance judged or characterized.
The reasons for the dismissal are still unclear.
The revelation first came to light in The Washington Post, which also obtained several of Bergdahl’s writings. The writings, along with other previously revealed emails, appear to reveal a man struggling with his mental health, “trying to keep myself togeather [sic],” he wrote.
“I’m worried,” he wrote in one journal entry before he deployed, according to the Post. “The closer I get to ship day, the calmer the voices are. I’m reverting. I’m getting colder. My feelings are being flushed with the frozen logic and the training, all the unfeeling cold judgment of the darkness.”
“I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside,” he wrote a few pages later, according to the newspaper. “I will not lose this passion of beauty.”
Part of the debate around the Obama administration’s decision to free Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bergdahl has been the murky circumstances surrounding his disappearance and capture in 2009. Critics call him a deserter or a traitor; others call him simply confused.
The officer who investigated Bergdahl’s disappearance for the Army a few years ago interviewed many of the same soldiers who are now calling him a deserter. They described him as always on time, dressed in proper uniform and courteous, a little quirky “but not freaky.” One example some gave is that he smoked a piperather than chewed tobacco like many of his comrades.
Although Bergdahl had sneaked off the outpost once before, his superiors never found out and his buddies thought it was neat he had gotten away with it.
The investigating officer could not reach any definite conclusions about what Bergdahl was thinking when he disappeared for good, but he speculated that the soldier was simply “bored” with the routine of standing guard.
CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that one Pentagon official described him as “at worst, a deserter. At best, a stupid kid who caused us to expend great energy and resources to bring him home.”
Bergdahl told his parents in earlier emails he was “ashamed to even be American” and was disgusted with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and with the Army, according to a 2012 report in Rolling Stone magazine.
“The future is too good to waste on lies,” one email reads. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong.”
The emails were provided to the magazine by Bergdahl’s family in Idaho, after they had gone public with their discontent with U.S. efforts to free their son, though there was no way to authenticate the emails.
Whatever Bergdahl’s mental state was, it is currently being closely evaluated and treated.
The 28-year-old soldier is taking part in the military’s reintegration program, a three-phase program designed to help with the physical and mental healing process of returnees.
Bergdahl completed the first and shortest phase at a military base in eastern Afghanistan, where he was taken immediately after his rescue. Following a medical evaluation, he was flown to the U.S. military’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for the second phase of the reintegration process. It is unclear how long he will remain in Germany, but much of his care there will focus on his physical well-being.
Medical personnel are determining the type of assistance Bergdahl will need once he is transported to his next stop, Brooke Army Military Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
This will be the third phase of the reintegration process, where much of the difficult psychological counseling will begin.