There is no longer a question as to the guilt of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The soldier who chose to walk off his post in Afghanistan and was subsequently captured by Taliban forces he may have been seeking in 2009 chose to plead guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy earlier this month; the only thing that remains is for the judge, Army Col. Jeffrey Nance, to determine the appropriate sentence.
Nance has a great deal of discretion in determining the appropriate sentence for Bergdahl. Despite the guilty plea, Bergdahl could be allowed to walk out of the court room a free man if Nance feels the five years he was held hostage was sufficient punishment for his transgressions, but Nance could potentially also sentence the soldier to life in prison on the charge of misbehavior.
In order inform his decision, Nance has chosen to allow the testimony of three service members who were injured as a direct result of the effort to find and save Bergdahl from the repercussions of his desertion. One of those service members was Navy SEAL, Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, who was forced to retire after an illustrious 26 year career in service to his country as a result of the injuries he sustained while searching for the wayward soldier. Hatch testified that he knew Americans would be hurt or killed trying to find Bergdahl, and he was aware that the soldier had deserted, but he didn’t hesitate to go forth with the mission for a simple reason: “He’s an American.”
“I said, ‘Hey man, someone’s going to get killed or hurt trying to get this kid,'” Hatch said on Wednesday. “Everyone on that mission was aware he walked off.”