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Bergdahl’s Hometown Caught In Crossfire Of National Backlash

Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo
Jani Bergdahl, mother of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, reacts as President Barack Obama speaks about the release of her son, during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Saturday, May 31, 2014.

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

Bergdahl was released Saturdayafter nearly five years in Taliban captivity. Since then, some fellow soldiers have accused him of being a deserter. The city of Hailey, Idaho is now asking people to withhold judgment.

Angry phone calls and emails have poured into Hailey City Hall, the police department and the chamber of commerce since the the weekend. Many online commenters 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 says a welcome celebration later this month will move ahead as planned.

“And it's about them getting their son back. 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," he said.

The secretary of the Army, in a statement, said the military is 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.


Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.