In the latest episodes of “Serial,” the popular “This American Life” podcast, producer Sarah Koenig explores Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s history and mental health.
In a two-part episode, released Thursday and Friday, Koenig examines a question she said she expects will play a fundamental role in Bergdahl’s court-martial: “Did the Army screw up by accepting Bowe, by deploying him to Afghanistan?”
RELATED: LISTEN TO THE IDAHO STATESMAN/KBSX COMPANION PODCAST, “SPEAKING OF SERIAL”
She did that by first looking back at his history growing up in Hailey. The soldier, who walked off his Army base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently captured and held prisoner for 5 years by the Taliban, said he grew up isolated: home-schooled and frustrated with his family.
“I grew up following cats,” Bergdahl told filmmaker Mark Boal. “There was usually like six cats, and we had dogs and horses and guns. And we had chickens. You know, so I grew up wandering around the wilderness with guns: BB guns, air guns, .22s, shotguns. And just: That was it. I just wandered around.”
He said he started his first job when he was 13 to get out of the house.
Koenig also touched on Bergdahl’s brief stint with the Coast Guard. He signed up in 2006, but had a breakdown a few weeks in. He was discharged in February 2006. According to the investigation into Bergdahl’s desertion, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl found that three weeks into basic training, Bergdahl was found on the floor suffering from a nose bleed and taken to the hospital. A psychiatrist at the hospital recommended Bergdahl be discharged and have clearance from a psychiatrist before being re-enlisted.
In Dahl’s report, he suggested the Army could have done more in their evaluation of Bergdahl when they recruited him. Bergdahl had written a personal statement to get a waiver to get enlisted into the Army.
Koenig read from Dahl’s report. He wrote that “it seems inadequate that we would rely on an interview and an applicant statement to explain the details of prior service and not review the separation action.”
Though Koenig points to arguments that Bergdahl was mentally unfit for service to explain his actions in 2009, some of his platoonmates said that’s not a good enough excuse.
Jon Thurman, who was in Bergdahls’ infantry company, said he recognized he and Bergdahl perceived the world differently, but he still felt wronged.
“Perception or not, I mean I still can never forgive him. Can’t. And it’s on principle,” Thurman told Koenig. “He broke that intimate bond that we all share with each other. That’s not something you can ever come back from. I don’t care where your head was. Bowe, you still f------ did it. You walked off and you betrayed us.”
LISTEN WITH US
We’re following along with Season 2 of “Serial” as it revisits the case of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Every Wednesday after a new “Serial” episode, reporters with the Idaho Statesman and Boise State Public Radio will host a companion podcast, “Speaking of Serial,” discussing Bergdahl’s case, “Serial’s” reporting and what happens when an Idahoan becomes the center of international news.
You’ll find the latest episode here.