Thursday, June 5, 2014

We Want All Our Soldiers to Come Home

Since Sunday, I've been observing the smoldering media fire surrounding the return of POW Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five prisoners from Guantanamo. The fact that this story has received so much coverage could be an illustration of our free press. On the other hand, some of that coverage has been political in nature. No big surprise there with Congressional elections looming in November. The politicians and their maneuvering tend to disgust me on so many levels that I want nothing to do with any of it.

Bergdahl in captivity (Photo: Huffingtonpost)

However, there is a human story here.  I've been trying to piece it together. It seems to have begun in June 2009. Some reports say Bergdahl wandered away from his unit, either because he became disoriented and lost, or because he wanted to leave. That brings up the question about his intentions: did he intend to leave, i.e. desert, or was it all a grievous mistake?  The soldiers who served with him claim that he had become disillusioned and he deserted.  I have yet to hear Bergdahl himself explain his actions.

My questions for Bowe Bergdahl:
  • What were you thinking when you left your unit?
  • Were you intending to desert?
  • Where did you think you were going?
  • Did you think there would be consequences for your unit for your leaving?
  • Did you intend to be captured by the Taliban?
  • Did you know that your unit would look for you?
  • Did you ever try to escape from your Taliban captors?
  • Did you truly understand what you were doing when you left your unit?
Since my childhood I have been a non-violent person, against war. I don't believe aggression and domination solves problems but creates them. Having said that, as an American citizen, I feel it is my duty to support our men and women serving their country in the military. Bowe Bergdahl had been serving his country in Afghanistan. He deserves to be heard and listened to in all seriousness.  We need to understand why he did what he did.

Some of the soldiers in his unit have been vocal about their experiences because of Bergdahl's actions. Six soldiers lost their lives looking for Bergdahl, from what I understand from the media coverage. Those are six soldiers who did not come home to their families. Should Bowe Bergdahl somehow be forced to "pay" for those soldiers' deaths?  How?

When do human beings, during their growing up, realize that their actions can affect other people, sometimes even people they don't know?  That people respond to the words and actions of others? I've met middle-aged adults who still don't understand these things.  They operate in a world in which they are oblivious to how their actions and words affect those around them. They believe they are always right, always in the know, always good, that other people act and speak "out of the blue" and disconnected from them.  But if a person fails to consider those around him, to try to understand them, how can he be always right, in the know and good?

No one is perfect. Perfection is an ideal that has caused many a mental breakdown when there's a belief that it's attainable. No one can always be right, in the know and good. Human beings grope and struggle through life to understand their purpose, to contribute to society in a positive way, and to not do harm.  No one has perfect mental health -- I don't even know what that might look like.  The human normal means lots of flaws, weaknesses, insecurities, doubts, and learning as well as strengths, intelligence, and curiosity, and the support and confidence of others.

We want all our soldiers to come home.  Safe and alive.  We know that is the ideal during war, and there will be losses.  There will be injuries, both physical and psychological. We still want all our soldiers to come home, so we can help them, live life with them, or bury them.  If Bowe Bergdahl had a problem with being in Afghanistan in June 2009, there needed to be a path he could have taken to get out safely and without causing harm to anyone else in his unit.  He shouldn't have felt himself alone, on his own, and feeling that he had no other choices.

We may yet hear from Bowe Bergdahl about what he did and why.  I hope that our military can learn from what he has to say so that what he did will not be seen as the only course of action for another young soldier.....

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