Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
In 2014 Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed from captivity to the relief of his supporters in Idaho. But another tide turned: those who had waited for this day found themselves caught in political crossfire and lacking the broad support they had leaned on when he had been a P.O.W. Northwest News Network told the story of Hailey, Idaho and Bergdahl's family before and after his release in 2014.

Bergdahl's Hometown Caught In Crossfire Of National Backlash

U.S. Army

People in Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's hometown of Hailey, Idaho, say they're “shocked” by how quickly the captive soldier's homecoming has turned into a national controversy.

Bergdahl was released Saturday after nearly five years in Taliban captivity. Since then, some fellow soldiers have accused him of being a deserter. 

Angry phone calls and emails have poured into Hailey's city hall, police department and the chamber of commerce since the weekend. Many online commentators have accused the 28-year-old soldier of being a traitor and a Taliban sympathizer.

The backlash stems from reports that Bergdahl intentionally walked off his base in southeast Afghanistan in 2009. A former member of his battalion has said six soldiers died in the search efforts that followed.

But longtime supporters of the Bergdahl family say at this point, it’s all speculation. Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said a welcome celebration later this month will move ahead as planned.

“It's about them getting their son back," Gunter said. "It's about their son being captive. And all this other stuff -- I understand there's other things in play. But I'm just happy he's going to be reunited with his family. And we're not judging one way or the other. There's a process for that.”

The secretary of the Army issued a statement saying they are investigating the circumstances that led to Bergdahl’s capture. Members of Congress, meanwhile, are pushing for hearings on the deal that led to Bergdahl's release.

The Obama administration agreed to exchange five Taliban detainees for the soldier.