Ex-platoon leader: Bergdahl is a deserter, should face court-martial

MAPLE VALLEY, Wash. - Everyone who served with released captive Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl believes he deserted his unit, yet six other soldiers gave their lives searching for him in the months after he disappeared, says Bergdahl's former platoon leader, who now lives in Maple Valley.

In an interview with KVI Radio's John Carlson, former platoon leader Evan Buetow said "there is no question" that Bergdahl is a deserter and that he should face a court-martial for what he did.

"For at least two months (after Bergdahl vanished), maybe a little more, just a focused effort - everyone was trying to find Bowe and it was incredibly hard," Buetow said. "I mean, we were essentially chasing a ghost."

"We went 60 days without showering, just trying to find this guy, and yes, in those ensuing days and months and a little bit after that, soldiers died looking for him," he adds.

He says many of his fellow soldiers aren't talking about what they went through because they signed confidentiality agreements at the time. But Buetow did not.

Now, five years later, Bergdahl was released by the Taliban in exchange for five top Taliban officials.

Buetow says he feels it was a bad trade.

"We gave up a lot for what we got back," he says. "Now, having said that, he's an American, he's a soldier still and it's awesome that we got him back. ... But we gave up a far, far higher price by giving up these leaders. ... I think every American can say we gave up way too much for this."

Buetow says it upsets him even more when people say that Bergdahl served with honor.

"We've been waiting for this day to say, 'This is the truth, this is what's going on. It frustrated us a lot when we hear that he served with honor and distinction. How dare you say that? Soldiers died looking for him," he says.

Furthermore, Buetow says, there are some who believe other soldiers may have been killed in the months after Bergdahl disappeared by Taliban forces who planned attacks based on intelligence they got from Bergdahl. But Buetow himself says he doesn't necessarily believe that.

"There's no way to prove the deaths of anyone who died during that time frame - there's no way to prove how they did it. ... It's unfair to be like, everyone who died in that province was because Bergdahl has deserted. I think that's unfair."

Buetow says he believes the next step should be a court-martial.

"He needs to face a court-martial. He needs to face the fact that he deserted," Buetow says. "There's a reason that there's a Uniform Code of Military Justice, and if they don't stand by that, then why does it even exist?"