Listener Essay: Remembering Bowe Bergdahl
This past Monday was Veteran’s Day and I have a quick question for you:
What were you doing in June of 2009? This seems like a silly question. It is hard to remember life events over four years ago.
If you entered college in the summer of 2009, you would have started and likely completed a bachelor’s degree by now. If you had a child, as I did soon after 2009, you would watch that infant grow into a seemingly self-reliant toddler that would start Kindergarten soon.
If you are Bowe Bergdahl, a young Army soldier on his first tour in Afghanistan, June 2009 is when you became a prisoner of war, held by the Taliban. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is the only prisoner of war currently held from Operation Enduring Freedom.
Just days before this past Veteran’s Day, I learned of Bowe’s story. As a West Point graduate and a combat Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I strive to stay apprised of contemporary military issues and consider myself well informed. However, I was unaware that we had a living POW currently held in the Middle East.
A quick survey of my family, friends, and colleagues revealed that the vast majority did not know American had a POW. Many were openly surprised and a few even quickly google’ed it in disbelief. What was it about Bowe’s capture and confinement that allowed him to slip off the public and media’s radar? One POW . . . how could we forget just one?
Bowe, now 26 years old, was captured under still unclear circumstances in June 2009 by insurgents in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. He is believed to be alive and held in the tribal areas in or around Afghanistan. Over the years he has appeared in a handful of staged videos and was allowed to “write” his family a seemingly-coerced letter last summer. Talks between his captors and the Obama administration for a prisoner exchange and other concessions are stalled. Now, Bowe’s family is reaching out to the public for help.
Bowe’s family has a campaign to bring him into the public eye. They launched www.bringhomebowe.com to encourage people to write their congressional representatives as well as participate in a billboard campaign to reach out to the public and increase social media exposure for his plight. Our family purchased the Vietnam-era style bracelets with his POW information to help increase awareness in our local sphere of influence.
Just as good schools and excellent communities begin locally with active citizens, so too must we act to bring Bowe home. Politics, the use of military force, torture, and detainment camps like Guantanamo Bay are all controversial to say the least. Easy answers are difficult to come by; however, stop and focus on Bowe Bergdahl. Realize that the least we can do for his family and our country is to raise our voice. Tell your friends, “like it” on Facebook, tweet it out, call your congressional representatives. Take 5 minutes of this Friday and make a call; take action. You can do it and it will help.
No matter what your feelings on America’s military or politics, I believe that we can all agree to support bringing this young man home. I encourage you to think about Bowe Bergdahl as he was your own son, husband, or friend. Imagine feeling the pain of knowing that your loved one is held captive and likely tortured for not just days or weeks but for over 4 years.
Spread the word. Call your congressional representative. Wear the POW bracelet with his name. We need it within our hearts to remember and urge our political leaders to act.
Bowe Bergdahl is one of us, an American who chose to serve and we must remember . . . and bring him home.
Michael McCarthy is a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and an army veteran living in Delmar.
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