By Joe Silva
As a Navy Veteran who served in Guantanamo Bay, and is therefore familiar with the mission and the accurate details of the camps and the men held in them, I have my own feelings about the recent exchange of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five detainees from Gitmo.
As a writer, I am too far removed from the evolution of this story, and have read many conflicting “facts” recently about the legality of the exchange to be able to offer any original insight on that front. People are going to judge the actions according to their beliefs and experiences.
The news stories show the detainees’ names and what they did for the Taliban before their captures, dating as far back as 2003. You can see for yourself that there are some high-ranking individuals who were let go. As I read various news articles and see their photos, I recollect some of the dealings that I had with those faces.
I have no personal hatred for the men who were released, despite our history. They were detainees and I was a guard. Guards are told not to love the detainees and not to hate them. For me, I think I found a middle ground that I could live with, conscience clear. I would like to think that the detainees would also remember me without hatred, if they remembered me at all.
The only face that is not familiar to me in this story is Sgt. Bergdahl’s. I have read several articles about his capture, nearly all of them contradicting each other, and I have come to one conclusion that I hope my fellow Veterans and the rest of our nation can get behind.
No matter what led to Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance and subsequent capture in June, 2009, he is still an American service member, until the Army says otherwise. When I served, there was a promise made to me that no American service member would ever be left behind. There were no stipulations or terms to this agreement. No American gets left behind. Period.
I see this ordeal as a promise kept to one soldier, so that other generations of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and guardsmen don’t see that promise as empty words.
In the end, all that this story boils down to, on a human level, is that six men were set free, and six families can be reunited.
In truth, I hope the released detainees, people who are a part of my own history, peace and prosperity in their futures, as long as they refrain from further terrorist actions.
I hope that Bowe Bergdahl and his family can find some semblance of a normal life.
I hope that the American people will continue to view government actions with open and inquisitive minds.
And I hope that if I, or any member of my family, or comrades from my days in uniform, were ever held captive, that the same considerations would be made for arranging our release.
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Military Connection: A Promise Kept: By Joe Silva