Bowe Bergdahl's Platoon Mates Don't Mince Their Words In The 'Serial' Episode That Questions His Character

Ever since Bowe Bergdahl returned to the United States in June 2014 after being held captive by the Taliban for over a year, Bergdahl's platoon mates have accused him of disloyalty. This Monday, Bergdahl was referred to trial by a court-martial and just three days later, Serial released its second episode of the season, bringing his fellow soldiers' opinions into the Serial spotlight at an incredibly relevant time. "The Golden Chicken," which came out this Thursday, is a reference to the nickname given to Bergdahl by the Taliban because of his value to them. It features interviews with Daryl Hanson, Jon Thurman, and Shane Cross. They didn't like his actions, to say the least.

Last June, after President Obama made a prisoner swap with the Taliban to bring Bergdahl home, Specialist Cody Full, one of the sergeant's comrades and roommates who served in the same unit, testified before Congress and asked that Bergdahl be charged with desertion, along with seven additional criminal charges.

Bowe Bergdahl needs to be charged with desertion. Countless people looked for him when he went missing, putting their own lives on the line for him. ... Knowing that someone you needed to trust deserted you in war and did so on his own free will is the ultimate betrayal.
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Over a year later, the interviews featured in Serial suggest these sentiments remain not only true but also intensified. According to platoon member Daryl Hanson, the search for Bergdahl after he went missing was a "living hell."

I think a lot of us would have shot him. I truly say that with all sincerity, we have that much hate for him.

Hanson and other members involved in the search for Bergdahl described how their informants were given false information spread by the Taliban, who lured them into traps. Former Army Special Forces officer Mike Waltz said that soldiers were ordered to follow tips while searching for Bergdahl that had not been checked for validity.

There was just no time to check on it. We just went. And I can't overemphasize how dangerous that was. ... The Taliban knew that we were pulling out all the stops to find him and they were pushing out false information into our informant networks.

He went on to describe a case where men were led into a warehouse that had a car bomb inside of it. Despite the danger that came along with search that lasted 45 days, the soldiers persevered. And many of them regret it.

Former enlisted specialist Jon Thurman, who was in the same company as Bergdahl, told The Washington Post that Bergdahl's comments from episode 1 of the second season of Serial will not help him in his upcoming trial.

When that first episode aired, I mean, he sort of hung himself by saying that he walked off and was kinda thinking about doing his own Jason Bourne thing. ... The guilty verdict might come from just that. ... I want to see him serve time for what he did.

Bergdahl did indeed compare himself to Jason Bourne in a conversation with filmmaker Mark Boal during the first episode of Serial.

Doing what I did is me saying that I am like, I don't know, Jason Bourne. I had this fantastic idea that I was going to prove to the world that I was the real thing. You know, that I could be what it is that all those guys out there that go to the movies and watch those movies, they all want to be that, but I wanted to prove I was that.

In a June 2014 interview with Megyn Kelly, Bergdahl's platoon mates said he craved continuous combat and expected a higher level of action, months before he made the Jason Bourne comment. Former squad leader Justin Gerleve noted that the Iraq War was much more complicated than physical battle.

It was gun battles everyday. The war today is not that way. ... We're trying to get hearts and minds, trying to get the right way to go. ... It was discouraging to him in a way.

The soldiers' unanimously unfavorable comments concerning Bergdahl's actions make it increasingly easy to dislike him as a character. But, at the same time, their negative comments suggest that he was naive and immature, almost an outsider, adding yet another layer to his story.