Ocean County Press Release
FREEHOLDERS VICARI AND LITTLE OPPOSE MEDAL AND $300,000
BACK PAY AWARD TO ARMY PRIVATE BOWE BERGDAHL
PRIVATE BOWE BERGDAHL is a deserter and should be treated as such, not awarded $300,000 in back pay and a medal for his time as a prisoner of the Taliban, two Ocean County Freeholders said.
Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari and Deputy Director Gerry P. Little penned a letter to Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy encouraging the military not to award Bergdahl money or a POW citation.
"Medals are for heroes, not for deserters," Little said. "This man willingly left his post and by doing so endangered the lives of an untold number of soldiers."
Vicari said rewarding Bergdahl would be a "slap in the face" to Ocean County's 68,000 veterans.
"We have had the great honor and privilege on many occasions to be present at medal ceremonies honoring our local veterans from World War II through today's ongoing war on terror," Vicari and Little said in the letter. "These men and women are true heroes. Private Bergdahl is just the opposite. He is a deserter. Awarding him any citation for his time as a prisoner of the Taliban would be a grave disservice to the servicemen and servicewomen who wear, and who have worn, the uniforms of the United States Armed Forces."
Bergdahl pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If he is granted POW status, he could also receive up to $300,000 in back pay.
Bergdahl left his post without orders in Afghanistan in 2009. He was captured by the Taliban and returned to the US in 2014 after then President Barrack Obama agreed to release five Taliban terrorists in return for the Army sergeant.
At the time, Obama praised Bergdahl during a Rose Garden ceremony with the man's parents.
Little also questioned why Bergdahl received such a light sentence from a military judge.
"The judge said he was concerned because President Trump had criticized Bergdahl. Funny that he didn't seem concerned when Obama praised him," Little said.
Although he admitted to deserting his post, Bergdahl's only punishment was a reduction in rank to private, a dishonorable discharge and a $10,000 fine.
"What kind of message are we sending to our men and women in uniform when an admitted deserter is punished with a slap on the wrist and may even be rewarded for his actions?" Little said.
After Bergdahl was first reported missing, nearby soldiers were taken from other duties to search for him. At least one enlisted man was shot in the head by the Taliban and suffered irreversible brain injuries from the wound inflicted during the search effort.