In May of 2012, years before Bowe Bergdahl would become a subject of nationwide controversy, the New York Times reported on the captured Army sergeant’s origins and background. Bergdahl was an adventurous yet aimless young man who looked to the military as a source of order in his life — but who might have been in over his head.
Bergdahl grew up off the grid — and surrounded with books. His father, Robert Bergdahl, “built a simple cabin that eventually housed about 5,000 books, but for years had no phone.”
The future Taliban captive was a free-spirited young man. In his early 20s, Bergdahl was “moving from job to job to save up for exotic wanderings” and worked as “a crew member on a large sailboat, which led to other crew jobs, including one through the Panama Canal.”
He also trained as a ballet dancer shortly before the Army. While working as a barista in Hailey, Idaho, Bergdahl began taking classes “at the Sun Valley Ballet School, where he is remembered as a strong dancer who easily lifted the school’s ballerinas.”
Bergdahl might not have known what he was getting himself in to when he joined the Army. “I don’t think he understood really what he was going to do,” Sky Bergdahl, the Army sergeant’s older sister, told the Times.
Robert Bergdahl had some strong views about the US’s mission in Afghanistan — and claimed that his son did as well. U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine was, according to Bergdahl’s father, “a biometric data-gathering device — send the rabbits out there to get I.E.D.-ed so you can figure out who to kill at night. How ethical.”
Bergdahl claimed that his son “was frustrated by what he saw.”
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