EXCLUSIVE: Fellow soldier calls Sgt. Bergdahl a 'deserter, plain - KMSP-TV

EXCLUSIVE: Fellow soldier calls Sgt. Bergdahl a 'deserter, plain and simple'

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His family calls him a hero, and the White House calls him a prisoner of war -- but a soldier who was part of the unit that searched for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl says there's another side of the story that hasn't been told.

Although the U.S. government made a significant trade to get him back, Bergdahl could still face charges for walking away from his unit in Afghanistan 5 years ago. The Taliban captured and held him in near-solitary confinement until his release this past weekend, but the trade of five Taliban militants in return has some scratching their heads.


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Even so, the confusing and complex deal that freed Bergdahl from captivity is far more than just another news story for U.S. Army Soldier Dakota Oklesson. For him, it's personal.

"We heard he fell back from patrol," Oklesson told Fox 9 News. "Then, once we got to another base to refit equipment and food, we found out he walked off with a knife compass and whatever else he took with him and left his body armor."

Oklesson, now a student at the University of Minnesota, was there when Bergdahl disappeared. In fact, he was in the same unit as Bergdahl -- the very same unit that put their lives on the line, and lost some, in the search for him.

"We were just upset," Oklesson said. "People were dying, shot at -- taking us away from our mission in our area."

FOX News reporter Jennifer Griffin reported Tuesday that Bergdahl not only walked away from his post in 2009 but also left a note behind to say he was disillusioned with the Army and wanted to renounce his citizenship. That leaves Oklesson with one very strong stance on the matter.

"He's a deserter, plain and simple. He did it to walk off and join them," he said.

Even if he didn't intend to join the Taliban, an expert on the psychological effects of captivity explained that it is very possible that Bergdahl came to identify with his captors after 5 years.

"It's almost expected that they will identify with their captors," Dr. Brian Engdahl, who researches PTSD at the Brain Sciences Center at the University of Minnesota, said. "They depend on them for everything. They are the only ones with whom they can communicate."

According to Engdahl, whatever the circumstances of Bergdahl's disappearance may have been, it's certain that re-integration will be an emotional marathon for him.

"Re-entry is a challenge and it will continue for one or more years, my prediction," he said. "He may have problems with guilt and identifying with 'who I am' and 'where do I fit back? Should I be ashamed?' We don’t have the answers."

Yet, answers are exactly what a clearly frustrated Oklesson wants.

"It's a good thing we got him back so that he can answer for what he did," he said.


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