Bergdhal is only a new issue for those who follow Iraq and Afghanistan as they would the NFL. For those of us in the military and veteran community, we have known about him and have talked about him for a while.
Forget the debate about President Obama and constitutional boundaries.
Does it surprise anyone that Republicans would make this an issue against the administration?
Forget the rhetoric and flip flopping of politicians who wanted Bergdahl to be brought home, and who are now mad that he is home.
We're going to get upset about politicians doing what they always do?
Forget the idea that Bergdahl "walked off the battlefield".
This isn't a game of capture-the-flag, there isn't an out of bounds in Afghanistan.
Forget the fact that Bergdahl had written e-mails and letters stating that he was disenchanted with the war in Afghanistan.
Who among those of us that fought in Afghanistan and Iraq can honestly say that we were not at one time disenchanted with the wars we were fighting. Whether it was disenchantment with the mission, the ROE, etc.
Forget all of that. Forget what you have heard from his brothers who fought with him. Just forget that you ever heard the story about Bergdahl.
Let's pretend that this whole article wasn't precipitated by what has been going on in the news and the comments on both sides.
Recently, I felt compelled to become involved in a conversation on Facebook about Bergdahl. On one side stood the liberals who could neither find fault with Bergdahl nor with Obama, and on the right stood the conservatives who could find nothing but treachery with Bergdahl and Obama.
The hardest position to defend is the middle, for you are beset by enemies on both flanks.
Without realizing the irony and humor of her quip, a former Democratic candidate for Congress, Kristin Cabral said to me "'Great Minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people"'.
Even though she was attacking me rather than the ideas which I was espousing, she was right. I, and many veterans and military members, are using a man, Bergdahl to explain something that we hold dear. Something that men and women have died for, fought for, throughout the ages. A code that is as flexible as a wisp of air and yet is as hard as a diamond. It is both intangible and tangible; simple yet is at the same time complex. Regardless of the branch in which one served or serves, it was ingrained: Honor.
Honor is a tricky thing. In many ways honor has two separate subsets. The first is being able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the reflection staring back at you. The second is how society views your actions.
Because only you will ever truly know the intent, the thought, that crystalized your actions.
Every man and woman who has experienced war, been an active participant in combat, knows that honor is a fungible idea. Hell, most aspects of war are fungible ideas. The world erupts from the black and white colors of childhood and civilized safety, into a multitude of varying shades of color. There are few things in war that are understandable to those who have never left the safe confines of America. It's not their faults for not knowing. The baseness of man is something that civilization suppresses, but which war brings out.
I submit to you that unlike General Chamberlain who believed that "war makes bad men worse and good men better", I believe that war neither makes a man (or woman) better or worse, it just molds us while we are there.
However, there is one emotion, one driving thought that gets you through the endless patrols, the never ending political bullshit, and the trauma: I need to do whatever I can to make sure that those to the left and right of me come home. For those doing the fighting, war isn't about taking countries, it's about taking hills. War is personal. War is hell. War is a family affair.
Family isn't defined by DNA. It's defined by blood and the men and women of our military have spilt enough of it
It is not the soldier who goes AWOL in the U.S. after having spent 30 months in Iraq over the past 3 years who deserves our condemnation.
It's not the Marine who has given his all and is so fatigued of battle that he cannot go on, who deserves our disgust.
It's not the Navy Corpsman who has seen so much death and misery that he cannot wait to take off his uniform and be done with his service, who deserves humiliation.
They all did everything that they could do to ensure that their brothers and sisters could return home.
None of them committed an unforgivable sin. None of them deserted to the enemy. If you can't understand what that act means to men and women in combat, than you fundamentally do not understand what honor means to those of us who have worn and still wear the uniform.
It is betrayal of a promise that is so universal that it needs neither an American flag nor an oath.
Sure, there are some who will state that Bergdahl never intended to desert his unit. He had gone out on at least two separate occasions and had come back to his unit. Maybe so. Maybe he never intended to desert.
He could have just wanted to go on a nice stroll through Afghanistan.
The problem is, we will probably never know what his intentions were.
Remember the second subset of honor.
Therefore we can only judge his action: He willfully left his unit, during combat, in an area in which they were surrounded by the enemy.
Unlike so many who were captured by our enemies in this country (and Iraq), Bergdahl wasn't beheaded, hung, or drug through the streets until he died. Maybe the Taliban kept him alive so that they could do a prisoner swap. I know that if a Taliban fighter had defected or been captured by my unit, we would have done everything that we could have done to interrogate him for information. Therefore logic dictates, that the Taliban received actionable information from Bergdahl.
However, none of this dissolves the oath that he took and the fact that he was an American paratrooper.
The past tense is important....
He is ours to deal with. He broke his oath to you, me, and every other man and woman who swore an oath of allegiance to defend this country. It is not the Taliban's justice that he deserves, it is American military justice. He would never have received American military justice if we did not return him to the U.S.
At the end of the day, it isn’t the man who veterans are against. At the end of the day, this isn’t an academic debate for us on the boundaries set on the Executive Branch by our Constitution. At the end of the day, this isn’t a visceral debate in which one side scores political points against the other. At the end of the day, this is a question of honor. If you do not understand that, than you lack the ability to even take part in this Bergdahl debate, because you are without it.