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We were Drafted by the Selective Service of the United States Government. We got our letter….”Greetings…”. At the time of the receipt of the letter we had one of the best jobs in America. It all happened July 20th, 1967. The job that had to be given up? Engineering Order Engineer on the Saturn II, 2nd Stage of the Apollo missile to the moon. At 25 years and 9 months, we were just three months from being exempt from the Draft. After going through basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia we received The American Spirit Medal for being the best trooper out of 2500 in the that most recent Basic Training Cycle. Yes, we had to fire Expert Rifle with the M-14. We had to excel in every area of training. We had to show leadership by being selected a Platoon Guide that led and controlled his troops for excellence and made sure out of the four barracks – we were the best. There was every good chance that all of us were going to go to Vietnam as Infantrymen. There was every good chance that many of us – would not come home, or if we did…..may be maimed or psychologically wounded, harmed or haunted by the effects of Agent Orange. To put it bluntly – there could be serious ramifications.
We tell this story only to bring to the fact that “attention to detail” is a prime factor and consideration in all military training. You could get medals or raise of rank based on the fact that you learned your job well or were lucky enough to have someone rotate home or back to the states and you could fill their slot. This was known in the days before “The Tet Offensive” as a wartime Army. The rules were looser, the rules of engagement flexible, although people like LBJ and Robert Strange McNamara touted strict humanitarian concerns, with U.S. Soldiers standing Guard Duty with emply clips, that required you to be fired upon within 25 meters before you could request ammo rounds for your rifle. When people talk of the “Fog of War…..” they have little or no concept as to what happens unless you have been in the right spot or the wrong spot at the right or wrong time.
Drugs had become rampant and prevalent during the years of 1969 and beyond. The psychodelic society included musical groups with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. The Cream, Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin, Mothers of Invention and others raised relevant societal issues on the heels of the Dylan craze of the late 60’s – which played a huge roll in crafting what was happening to soldiers, sailors and Marines both at their duty stations and when they came home. To be clear, everyone knew everything about their fellow soldiers. If they slept in the barracks or in assigned bunks of four or six. Everyone knew if you had issues. Everyone knew if you did drugs, got drunk, had mental problems, had family issues, had issues with your local girl friend, had problems with authority, had problems with other soldiers, was depressed, or had complaints about itchy blanket and the USO. Being in the Army for example is a very transparent process which requires that you know what is going on with someone next to you which might decide to “Frag an Officer or Enlisted Sergeant” – “Just because!” The drug issue in Bergdahl’s unit is of prime concern – how often and how many folks were involved? Opium, Black Pakistani Hash and others are rampant in Afghanistan and probably the reason all of Bergdahl’s fellow troopers had to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements before they could come home!
We find the “finding fault” issue today of Bowe Bergdahl shocking! How long was Bowe in his Unit in Afghanistan? How often did he have to stand Guard Duty? Did he ever fail to complete that duty assigned before his disappearances? Did Bowe Bergdahl “do drugs”? Did his fellow soldiers “do drugs”? If Bergdahl just “wandered off” prior to his five year incarceration – what were his fellow soldiers doing or aware of? Nothing? Did they bring it up to their NCO or the CO? Did they give the kid a chance to change his behavior – “If he was a loner…”? Did these same troopers ever talk to Bergdahl personally? Did Bowe Bergdahl kill Taliban or Afghans? Did Bowe Bergdahl kill any American Soldiers directly? Is Bowe Bergdahl responsible for all the deaths of American troops after his disappearance? If Bergdahl had wandered off before – who talked to him about that?
Holding Bowe Bergdahl to the highest traditions of American Soldiering may be a bit of a reach. Bergdahl was a simple SP-4, not a Staff Sergeant when he so-called wandered off. Everyone of Bowe Bergdahl’s fellow troopers who are castigating him and blaming him for the deaths of troopers “for those who were searching for Bowe Bergdahl” are ludicrous. During the time that Bowe Bergdahl was missing – how many troopers lost their lives just in training incidents? 100 or more little doubt. Should we blame Bowe Bergdahl for all those deaths……as well? How many of these American Heroes reported to their NCO or CO about Bergdahls’s issues? The concept is to look out for your buddy. If you don’t like the guy…..you still look out for the guys you do like by bringing up any issues of consequence or less – either to them directly or to your superiors!
So, we end this thought balloon with the following: “There for but for the grace of God – Go I” Anyone could have been taken prisoner and many CIA Officers including Mike Spann (his ghost) can tell you what a real American Taliban can do!” John Walker Lind hated America and never went into the Armed Forces of the United States. John Walker Lind found a way to fight and kill American in Afghanistan, even though he was just a Civilian and American citizen. John Walker Lind, did not wander off his post after killing Taliban for months. John Walker Lind found ways to kill other American citizens in a foreign land.
Much is made of the desire of certain media to categorize Bowe Bergdahl as a Deserter. If Bowe Bergdahl was a deserter and ran in the face of the enemy, if he left his post in the middle of his scheduled duty to leave with his body armor and rifle…….they may have had a point. Whatever, Bowe Bergdahl thought about our efforts in Afghanistan are neither here nor there. He could have written a blog for Fox News and been a big hero. No U.S. Soldier wants to become a prisoner of war – POW! Missing! Nixon not bringing all our troops home! Chuck Norris and Gene Hackman having to go after our POW’s because our government didn’t have the guts? What about torture? How long would it take anyone to break? One month, One year, Five Years? Everyone breaks, just ask John McCain!
Bowe Bergdahl is one lucky dude. He probably should have been dead, with his head cut-off and been nothing but one of the many videos which are recruiting tools used by the Al-Qaeda or Pashtun Taliban. We knew a U.S. Army Soldier…..once! For those of us that have never been taken captive during a war……God bless each and every one of us!